Conceptualization Shapes Practice: Apostasy-Based Refugee Claims and International Human Rights Law

M. van Schaik, L. Hillary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed in international human rights law. Incorporating the right to apostasy as a fundamental aspect of religious freedom encounters challenges in different state practices. To study this phenomenon, this article explores the interaction of the conceptualization of the right to apostasy in international human rights law and in the context of apostasy-based refugee claims. The main argument of this article is that ambiguity in international human rights law exists on the concept of ‘apostasy’. This results in human rights protection gaps when states are unwilling to grant their inhabitants the right to apostasy. These gaps in protection are sometimes filled in by refugee law. However, in the specific context of apostasy-based refugee claims, this article identifies an issue with the identification and application of the concept of apostasy—and this conceptual ambiguity may lead to a lack of protection. Indeed, conceptualization shapes practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Human Rights Practice
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2023


  • apostasy
  • human rights
  • refugees
  • international human rights law
  • freedom of religion
  • refugee law
  • refugee convention


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