Freedom of Religion


Freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed by article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCRP); both of which have been ratified by Somaliland and the other countries making up the Horn of Africa; namely Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

More locally, information regarding this right can be found in local legislation, for example within national constitutions.

The right to freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion includes, but is not limited to:

However, it is important to note that whilst the right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion is absolute, meaning it cannot be restricted, freedom of expression is qualified. This means that the manifestation of a belief may be restricted on specific grounds (where specified by law); for example, where it is in the public interest, for national security, or public safety.

Individuals who may be deemed particularly vulnerable to violations of this right include-

- Women

- Refugees

- Children

- Minorities

- Migrant Workers

- Persons deprived of their liberty

Further protection is therefore provided by Covenants including the ICCPR, and others such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESR)

Where a country recognises a religion as State religion individuals should still be able to exercise their rights under the Covenant, without ‘discrimination against adherents to other religions or non-believers’- Human Rights Committee general comment 22 Para . 9. Whilst this should be applicable in countries such as Somaliland where Sharia Law is deemed the national religion, it is not fully adhered to this due to its outlaw of religions other than Islam within its Constitution (Article 5), though this right still remains in international law.

Case example:

Eweida v UK [2013] ECHR 37

Facts: Nadia Eweida was placed on unpaid leave for breaching British Airways’ uniform policy, after visibly wearing a necklace with a religious symbol (a Christian Cross). The European Court of Human Rights ruled that this violated her rights under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights concerning the right to freedom of thought, belief and religion.