Report on the Freedom of Thought

05 October 2021
The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
To the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on 19 October 2021


The report examines the theoretical scope and potential violations of the first right in article 18 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: freedom of thought. Drawing on international jurisprudence, scholarship and the perspectives of diverse stakeholders, he first examines four proposed attributes of this right: (a) freedom not to disclose one’s thoughts; (b) freedom from punishment for one’s thoughts; (c) freedom from impermissible alteration of one’s thoughts; and (d) an enabling environment for freedom of thought. Furthermore, it examines potential violations of the right across seven diverse fields: torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; surveillance; coercive proselytism, anti-conversion and anti-blasphemy efforts; intellectual freedom and education; existing and emerging technologies; mental health; and conversion practices. Finally, it presents key recommendations to multilateral, State and various non-State actors on how to respect, protect and fulfil the right to freedom of thought. In particular, it encourages the United Nations human rights system to further clarify the freedom’s scope and content, including through a general comment.

Additional information

Submissions received

Special Procedures
Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
Recent thematic reports
Issues in focus
Contact information

Mr. Ahmed Shaheed
Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations at Geneva
8-14 avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Fax: (+41) 22 917 90 06

Official Twitter page of Special ProceduresOfficial Twitter page of Special Procedures
Others involved