Recognising the Right to Truth Day

24 March, 2015

Recognition of the right to truth about human rights violations and the dignity of victims is reflected in our programme on human rights, good governance and faith.

Today is marked internationally as the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. The purpose of this day is to highlight the importance of the right to truth and justice for victims. Too often, people adopt an attitude of moving on from the past without concern for the wellbeing of those most affected. In light of this, today recognises those who have devoted or given their lives in the pursuit of human rights for all. At the centre of remembrance, the United Nations (UN) honours the work and values of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, of El Salvador, who was assassinated on this day 35 years ago. His life was dedicated to denouncing violations of human rights, defending the most vulnerable populations, protecting human dignity, and opposition to all forms of violence.

The world is still a dangerous and unjust environment for people who follow in Archbishop Romero’s footsteps. Therefore, UN member states are asked to respond and commemorate accordingly. On this day last year, commemorations by the UN praised commissions of inquiry within the Central African Republic, Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and applauded the work of a Truth and Dignity Commission in Tunisia. However, there is still a long way to go where recognition is concerned. Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff, appointed by the Human Rights Council in 2012, highlighted problems faced within transitional commissions and how we ought to proceed. Last year, Mr de Greiff stipulated in his report to the General Assembly that although progress was being made in law and practice, scandalous levels of incompetence in implementation remain.  As a result, human rights abuse continues in a chronic and uninterrupted direction. These warnings were reiterated by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon within the address.

As an executive agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a central part of our priorities is the fight against human rights abuses worldwide. In the coming months, we will convene a series of events enshrining our commitment to human rights. At the end of March, we will examine strategies aimed at preventing torture and improving prevention in the future. This will recognise the absolute prohibition of torture under international law and aim to strategically forecast the future protection of human rights. We will also be assembling an event on religious perspectives and rights within the development framework in Africa. This will draw upon a wide range of experts, academics, and practitioners from the continent with the aim of creating better policy in development within the region.

We continue to address human rights as focal topic within our podcast series. At the beginning of this month, an episode focused on the right of all to freedom of religion and belief. Over the past year it has been a re-emerging topic and emphasises the value placed both in Wilton Park and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office on human rights internationally.

Further information

International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims

OHCHR: Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence

Related events

Strategies for tackling torture and improving prevention (2015)

Religion and development: making better policy to make a bigger difference in Africa (2015)

Developing a multilateral approach to freedom of religion or belief: a European perspective (2015)

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