GENEVA (18 August 2023) – On the occasion of the International Day to commemorate victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief, a group of UN experts* issued the following joint statement:
“In 2019, 22 August was designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, deploring the widespread violations suffered by individuals – including migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and persons belonging to minorities – who are targeted on the basis of religion or belief.
Back in 1981, it had taken some two decades for the international community to finally adopt the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. That Declaration acknowledged the great suffering brought about by the disregard and infringement of human rights including of freedom of religion or belief. It noted that for those that profess religion or belief, this constitutes one of the fundamental elements of their conception of life and therefore also of their freedoms.
On this, the 75th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), there is a particular resonance with the 1981 Declaration’s emphasis that the use of religion or belief for ends inconsistent with the UN Charter, the UDHR and other instruments is inadmissible and condemnable (Article 3).
The international community resolved to adopt all necessary measures to speedily eliminate and combat intolerance and discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, observing that this can stem from any actor whether a State, business, institution, group of persons, or person. Intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief is defined as: “Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief and having as its purpose or as its effect nullification or impairment of the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis” (Article 2.2).
Regrettably, such impairments and violations continue to plague us from every direction in every corner of the world. 42 years on from the 1981 Declaration, this year’s international day to Commemorate the Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief offers the opportunity to make visible the multiple, daily and egregious violence that takes place based on religion or belief, and to seek to respond to its root causes, urgently and with far greater determination.”