Special Adviser’s Message on the International Day for Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief 22 August 2020


Today we observe the second International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. Freedom of religion is a human right, which must be afforded proper protection, including by ensuring that those seeking to undermine this right are identified and brought to justice.

On this day, we reaffirm our commitment to the victims and survivors of ISIL crimes who suffered from violence based on their religion and beliefs, and that we will continue our work to hold perpetrators accountable.  This is essential not only in vindicating the rights of the religious communities of Iraq but also in strengthening the basis on which we can prevent such crimes from reoccurring. 

Freedoms of religion and belief is not only a fundamental and essential human right - it is also a matter of national security which affects the safety and stability of nations.

We have seen time and time again that when such rights are curtailed and when people are defined by how they pray or worship or by the individual faith they hold or seek to practice, it leads to persecution, acts of violence and terrorism. In its worst form, in ISIL, we have an object lesson of what happens when freedom of religion or belief is prohibited in absolute terms.

Religious apartheid, religious intolerance and persecution based on an individual’s faith has no place anywhere. Every religion – at its core – requires kindness and those who preach hate and division or who masquerade under contorted messages of violence must be called out. We must, collectively, be intolerant of religious intolerance.

We applaud the courage of all individuals who suffer on account of their beliefs. There must be no compulsion in religion. Persecution and acts of violence based on a person’s faith are matters that shame humanity and they are acts that may constitute international crimes.

Karim A. A. Khan QC