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UN Human Rights Council appoints Oxford University professor as new religious freedom boss

by Tola Mbakwe
Dr Nazila Ghanea.jpg - Banner image
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has appointed Dr Nazila Ghanea as the new Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).  

Dr Ghanea, confirmed by the Council on 8th July, is a professor of international human rights law and director of international human rights programmes at the University of Oxford. She will take over the mandate from Dr Ahmed Shaheed, who served as rapporteur from 2016-2022.

The Special Rapporteur on FoRB is an independent expert appointed by the UNHRC and tasked with identifying “existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and [presenting] recommendations on ways and means to overcome such obstacles.”

The position was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1986 under the title of ‘Special Rapporteur on religious intolerance’, which was subsequently changed to ‘Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief’ in 2000.

Christian persecution watchdog CSW has backed the new appointment.

It’s UN officer Claire Denman said: “CSW congratulates Dr Ghanea on her well-deserved appointment as Special Rapporteur, and we look forward to working closely with her as she takes on this key mandate.

“There are many obstacles to freedom of religion or belief around the world which require urgent international action, and Dr Ghanea is eminently qualified to carry forward the vital work of her predecessor in bringing these issues to the Council’s attention, and in advancing respect for and understanding of the right to freedom of religion or belief across the world.”

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