UN envoy deeply concerned over Afghan charged for converting to Christianity

22 March 2006

The top United Nations envoy in Afghanistan today voiced “great concern” for an Afghan apparently charged in court for converting from Islam to Christianity in a case that could strain the war-torn country’s relations with the international community.

“I am unaware of any previous case of this kind in Afghanistan,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Tom Koenigs said in a statement on Abdul Rahman, who was brought before a court in Kabul, the capital, last week under Muslim Sharia charges.

“It is my wish that Mr. Rahman’s legal and human rights will be upheld, and that this matter does not create a rift between Afghanistan and its international partners,” he added, stressing that freedom of religious worship is a founding principle of the UN, arising from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Afghanistan as a UN member has adhered to this declaration which stipulates that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the “freedom to change religion or belief,” and the declaration features in the opening sentences of the country’s constitution of 2004, Mr. Koenigs noted.

“I trust that these principles will guide the judicial authorities in all cases, including this one,” he added.

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