Honor murdered French teacher Samuel Paty by defending rights and challenging fundamentalism – UN Experts


GENEVA (October 15, 2021) – On the first anniversary of the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty, UN experts paid tribute to his commitment to teaching human rights values ​​and declared that the best way to honor him was to challenge fundamentalism and defend human rights.

Mr. Paty was beheaded by an extremist on October 16, 2020 near the school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in the Paris suburbs, following a social media campaign that distorted his attempts to teach freedom of expression using cartoons.

“His assassination was an attack on cultural rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, freedom of religion or belief – and of course his right to life,” said Karima Bennoune, United Nations special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, and Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

“His assassination took place in a context of growing questioning of the separation of religion and state, motivated in particular by fundamentalist actors in civil society,” they declared. “The most important ways to honor the memory of Mr. Paty are to defend these human rights, to challenge fundamentalism, to defend respect for pluralism and to ensure the safety of those who promote thoughtful academic debate for these purposes. . “

The experts expressed their solidarity “with Mr. Paty’s family and colleagues in the field of education who continue their work in promoting human rights education and critical thinking, including through the use of culture and on subjects deemed controversial or related to religion or belief.

On the anniversary, experts also paid tribute to others targeted this year for their practice and advocacy of cultural rights, such as Afghan folk singer Fawad Andarabi, who was dragged out of his home in a village. north of Kabul and killed by Taliban fighters in September. On February 28, shortly after a Taliban spokesperson said that “music is prohibited in Islam.”

“All States and the international community must do more to ensure the safety of those who exercise and defend cultural rights as well as other human rights and democratic values ​​through artistic expression, education and cultural dissent, ”the experts said.

Governments must ensure that perpetrators of crimes against those who defend these human rights are brought to justice in accordance with international law. It is also essential to commemorate these victims and to effectively challenge fundamentalist and extremist ideologies such as those which motivated their killings, in accordance with international standards. States must recognize and support the positive role of debate and dissent through cultural and creative expressions and protect those who engage in them, they said.

“Mr. Paty sought to use culture to teach human rights even when it was difficult and dangerous,” the experts said. “His voice may have been silenced, but his beliefs should continue to hold true. inspire us all to do more to create and preserve a space for expression and debate. These are essential elements of cultural life and efforts to promote human rights, especially in a context of diversity increasing. “

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