UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief Appointed

June 2010 – Geneva

The mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief having been extended for another three years, a new Rapporteur was named at the closing meeting of the fourteenth regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on 18 June 2010. The the German Catholic theologian, philosopher, and historian, Professor Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, Chair in human rights and human rights policies of the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, was appointed to replace Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir, who has served in the post since 2004. From 2003 to 2009 Bielefeldt was director of the German Institute for Human Rights in Berlin. Heavily involved in interfaith dialogue, he is a trustee of both the Muslim Academy in Germany and the Christian-Islamic society.

Bielefeldt’s appointment came after the original appointee, the Malaysian lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan, had been rejected by Muslim countries because of her alleged critical attitude towards Islam. Sreenevasan was one of eight recipients of the Award for International Women of Courage, given by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March 2009.