IRLA Mourns Loss of Human Rights Champion

Dr. Abdelfattah Amor "spoke out fearlessly against fanaticism and intolerance"

The death of Tunisian human rights lawyer Professor Abdelfattah Amor represents a great loss for the international religious freedom community, says Dr. John Graz, secretary general of the International Religious Liberty Association.

Professor Amor, who served from 1993 to 2004 as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, died on January 2 after suffering a heart attack. A Muslim, Dr. Amor was widely acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost advocates for religious freedom for all people of faith. In 1995, he was one of the few UN representatives to visit Iran, and he subsequently issued a groundbreaking report on religious intolerance and repression in that country. At the time of his death, Dr. Amor was a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, and had recently been appointed as president of Tunisia’s National Commission for the Investigation of Corruption and Bribery

“Dr. Amor was a man of tremendous courage and integrity,” says Dr. Graz. “He spoke out fearlessly against fanaticism and intolerance, and defended the right of every person to live according to his or her conscience. It would be difficult to overestimate his contribution to the cause of freedom. He also was a friend to the IRLA and we had the great pleasure of working with him in a number of different capacities through the years. On behalf of the IRLA, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to Dr. Amor’s family and friends as they mourn his loss.”  

Dr. Amor was a consistent supporter of the work of the IRLA and was a guest speaker at the 4th and 5th IRLA World Congresses in Rio and Manila. Several IRLA leaders were contributors to a special book prepared in Dr. Amor’s honor on his retirement from the University of Tunis. In November last year, Dr. Graz and Dr. Ganoune Diop, deputy secretary general of the IRLA, spent a number of hours with Dr. Amor in Geneva.  

“At our meeting he expressed his desire to spend the coming years with his family,” says Dr. Graz. “Dr. Amor was both a colleague and a friend and I will miss him greatly. He not only contributed enormously to the defense of religious freedom, but he also played a significant role within Tunisia, his home country, following the 2011 revolution. His work on behalf of human rights will long be remembered.”