Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence

“The Rabat Plan of Action – which considers the distinction between freedom of expression and incitement to hatred – also contains threshold tests and recommendations, which are extremely relevant to social media and many other aspects of the digital universe. I believe this precision, expertise, trans-national scope and solid legal grounding are key elements we will need to count on as we walk more deeply into the digital landscape.”

(High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet)

The Rabat Plan of Action brings together the conclusions and recommendations from several OHCHR expert workshops on the prohibition of incitement to hatred (held in Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi, Bangkok and Santiago de Chile). By grounding the debate in international human rights law, the objective of the series of expert workshops was threefold:

  • To gain a better understanding of legislative patterns, judicial practices and policies regarding the concept of incitement to national, racial, or religious hatred, while ensuring full respect for freedom of expression as outlined in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
  • To arrive at a comprehensive assessment of the state of implementation of the prohibition of incitement in conformity with international human rights law and;
  • To identify possible actions at all levels.

The Rabat Plan of Action, which was adopted by experts at the wrap-up meeting in Rabat on 4-5 October 2012, is available in EnglishFrenchArabic and Bangla (PDF). It suggests a high threshold for defining restrictions on freedom of expression, incitement to hatred, and for the application of article 20 of the ICCPR, by outlining a six-part threshold test which takes into account the context, speaker, intent, content, extent and likelihood.

The Rabat threshold test is being used by the national authorities for audio-visual communication in Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire and Morocco. Furthermore, in its judgment of 17 July 2018, the European Court of Human Rights referred to the Rabat Plan of Action under relevant international materials as well as in its summaries of submissions from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Article19. The United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic is also applying the Rabat test in its monitoring of incitement to violence.

2017 Rabat+5 Symposium

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Rabat Plan of Action, more than 100 States, national human rights institutions, regional organizations, religious authorities and faith-based civil society actors participated in the Rabat+5 symposium (6-7 December 2017, see concept note).

In his opening statement, the High Commissioner urged the various stakeholders to implement and support concrete “Faith for Rights” projects, notably at the grassroots level.

During the Rabat+5 symposium, sixteen civil society organizations and OHCHR’s Regional Office for Middle East and North Africa presented their projects and areas of future cooperation on combatting discrimination on the basis of religion and enhancing the role of faith-based actors in the defence of human dignity (see programme):

The Rabat+5 symposium offered an opportunity for the various stakeholders to engage with several experts who had contributed to the elaboration of the Rabat Plan of Action and the 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights” and to hear experiences in the area of combatting violence in the name of religion, both by State representatives, national human rights institutions and civil society actors. The participation of a number of mandate holders of international human rights mechanisms also enriched the discussions at the Rabat+5 symposium from a human rights perspective (see Chairman’s final statement).