Invitation to depict Mohammad as you see him

Concerning K.S.A and A.A.H (represented by counsel, Ms. Zaha S. Hassan) vs Denmark for violation of articles 17, 18, 19, 20 and 26.

In 2005, the culture editor of the Danish newspaper ‘Jyllands-Posten’ solicited 40 members of the Danish Newspapers’ Illustrators’ Union to depict the Islamic Prophet Mohammad, as they saw him. The authors allege that the illustrations commented on a faulty understanding of Islamic religious teaching and thus filed a complaint to various Danish authorities. The Danish Government stated that it has no means of controlling a free press. The Director of Public Prosecutions stated among others that not all Muslims consistently complied with the depiction ban, as there were pictures of Mohammad depicted respectfully from earlier times as well as the present. It, therefore, could not be assumed that a drawing of Mohammad, in general, would be contrary to religious doctrines and acts of worship, as practiced today. The Director of Public Prosecutions also noted that the drawings depict Mohammad, a religious figure, rather than referring to Muslims in general, and there was no basis for assuming that their intention was to depict Muslims generally as perpetrators of violence or even as terrorists. The drawings depicting persons other than Mohammad contained no general references to Muslims, and did not depict them in scornful or degrading fashion, even in conjunction with the text. A complaint was then sent to CCPR.

The Committee notes that after the Director of Public Prosecutions decided against bringing criminal prosecutions in respect of the publications at issue, the same subject matter was advanced to the State party’s courts by way of a private criminal prosecution, resulting in a judgment assessing at length criminal responsibility under these provisions of senior managers of the publishing newspaper. That judgment is currently still under appeal. The committee notes that such proceedings must be pursued to their conclusion before it can assess the claim. Thus, the communication is inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies.

20. July 2021

CCPR 1487/2006
  • Decision: 18. April 2008
  • Comm: Human Rights