Human rights group sees growing religious repression

Geneva (ENI) Intolerance and violent repression of religious and ethnic minorities, often the most vulnerable groups in many societies, is on the increase, said a prominent human rights advocacy group.

“There is a growing trend of growing intolerance,” Philippe Dam, acting Geneva director of Human Rights Watch, told ENInews. Recently, he said, the advocacy body studied repression against Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Tibetan monasteries, and Coptic Christians in Egypt. Dam, who conducts advocacy work at the U.N. Human Rights Council, emphasized, however, that in Egypt repression is going on beyond minority groups.

Egyptian security forces have also been quite infamous, he said, for the repression of political protesters. In China, he added, any kind of expression of dissent “is also repressed dreadfully,” and any kind of opposition is also suppressed in Saudi Arabia. Human Rights Watch says at least 17 Coptic Christian demonstrators were killed in Cairo Oct. 9 after they were apparently run over by military vehicles. It was the third such attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt this year. Dam said “impunity for violence against groups of people belonging to minority groups is what is fueling the violence.” Asked how religious minorities could be better protected, Dam said the issue of accountability is very important. Any use of violence or acts of repression against people belonging to religious minorities should be thoroughly investigated and individuals responsible should be bought to justice, he said.

In Egypt, there is a need for “better protection” for the Coptic community, Human Rights Watch said. In China, it said, the government “should immediately end excessive restrictions” on the Kirti monastery where seven monks this year have set themselves on fire to protest such security measures as detentions and blockades. In Saudi Arabia, authorities should immediately stop arbitrary arrests of Shia in the Eastern province.