Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief


The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The mandate holder promotes the right to freedom of religion or belief. The Special Rapporteur’s duties include identifying existing and emerging challenges in the protection of the right, as well as making recommendations on ways to address these challenges. The work of the Special Rapporteur relies on the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief for guidance.


The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years. The mandate is filled by one highly qualified individual.

The UN Commission on Human Rights established the Special Rapporteurship in 1986 with Resolution 1986/20. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate in 2010 with Resolution 14/11 and again in 2013 with Resolution 22/20.

In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits, communicates with governments concerning information and complaints received regarding alleged rights violations, and submits activity reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council.

Country Visits

One important function of the Special Rapporteur is to conduct country visits, which it does on the basis of an invitation from the country concerned. Country visits provide the Special Rapporteur an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge about the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and to identify both challenges and best practices for its protection.

The Special Rapporteur also makes recommendations to the country concerned and afterwards sends follow-up letters requesting updated information about the government’s implementation of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations.

The Special Rapporteur generally undertakes one to three country visits per year, to States that have extended an invitation. View the list of previous country visits and the Special Rapporteur’s subsequent reports here.

More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.

Receiving Information & Complaints

The Special Rapporteur receives information and complaints about alleged violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur does not issue decisions concerning individual complaints and cannot require the State to remedy any alleged violation; rather, the Special Rapporteur raises the issue of concern with the relevant State. The Special Rapporteur may contact the government concerned to invite comment on the allegation, seek clarification, remind the government of its international obligations, or request information on steps being taken by the government to redress the situation. Generally called “communications,” these exchanges with the government can take a variety of forms of varying degrees of significance. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur contacts a government through either an allegation letter or an urgent appeal.

The Special Rapporteur keeps confidential all communications to and from the government until it includes them in the summary of communications, which is submitted to the Human Rights Council. The communications sent by the Special Rapporteur and other special procedures are also compiled in periodic reports submitted to the UN Human Rights Council at each of its regular sessions.

In all communications, the Special Rapporteur is careful not to draw any conclusions about the facts of the case. Instead, he or she simply presses for the government to ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief is not violated.

Allegation Letters

Generally, the Special Rapporteur sends an allegation letter in circumstances where the alleged violation has already occurred, relates to general patterns of violations, or is not so pressing as to warrant sending an urgent appeal. An allegation letter generally contains a request for the government to clarify the substance of the allegation and to forward any information related to the allegation to the Special Rapporteur.

Urgent Appeals

The urgent appeals procedure is reserved for cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations that a person’s right to freedom of religion or belief might be violated and that the situation is time-sensitive. If it appears that the allegation letters procedure is unlikely to address the situation in a timely enough manner, the Special Rapporteur will send an urgent appeal to the government concerned.

Reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council

The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly on all of its activities relating to its mandate. These reports are available on the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports webpage.


Complaints should be submitted to the Special Rapporteur via the online submission form. Communications and complaints submitted to the Special Rapporteur should include the information requested on the model questionnaire, including:

  • the identity of the alleged victim(s),
  • identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the violation,
  • identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication, which will be kept confidential,
  • any steps taken to address the violation, and
  • the date, place, and detailed description of the circumstances of the incident(s) or alleged violation.

The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:

  • Mail:

Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10

  • Fax: +41 22 917 90 06

To contact the Special Rapporteur with regard to another matter (not a complaint), use the email address: [email protected].