International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims – March 24, 2023

The International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims is a U.N.-designated event held on March 24 each year. It was founded to commemorate a fallen human rights activist from El Salvador, Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero. The U.N. also wants the world to use this day as a means to remember every single victim of human rights violations, and thus stand for the truth and justice in every instance.

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

Saint Óscar Romero was born in 1917 and was an El Salvadorian native who developed an interest in becoming a priest at a very early age, entering the seminary when he was just 13. Moving to Rome to complete his studies, Romero was called back to his homeland in 1943, where he began his long and initially conservative career which culminated in him even becoming the Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. More openly progressive priests worried his conservative reputation would lean towards more government-friendly activities and impede the church’s stance towards helping the poor.

It was when fellow priest and friend Rutilio Grande — who had been creating self-reliance groups among the poor — was killed that Romero began criticizing the military government and their heavy-handed tactics towards oppressing the citizens. He would go on to dedicate his life to defending the poor in El Salvador, an act that garnered him death threats from the government. Romero persevered, however, even gaining global recognition for his outspokenness.

On March 24, 1980, Romero was assassinated as he was attending Mass at a chapel at Hospital de la Divina Providencia. An investigation into his death concluded that a right-wing pro-government political party had ordered the killing, although the assailants were never convicted of their crimes or even publicly identified.

The U.N. declared March 24 to be International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims in Romero’s memory, and to encourage more people to support the fight for truth.

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

1978
International Accolades

Archbishop Romero is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by 118 members of the British parliament and some U.S. congressmen; he wins it a year after his death, in 1981.

January 16, 1992
Investigation into Civil War

The U.N. stipulates that a commission called the Truth Commission for El Salvador will investigate all the wrongdoings that occurred during the country's 12-year civil war.

December 21, 2010
Our Day is Born

To commemorate Romero's death and work, the U.N. General Assembly declares March 24 as the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.

February 3, 2015
Martyrdom and Beatification

Archbishop Romero is declared a martyr by Pope Francis, and his beatification process begins on May 23 of the same year.

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

Do we have a right to the truth?

Every single person across the world has an undeniable right to know the truth, most especially in past events concerning grave crimes.

Why do we have the right to the truth?

Established by cases in and around America, the right to the truth is now an autonomous right recognized by various international and national bodies, and domestic legal systems too.

What are gross violations of human rights?

The term “gross violation of human rights” has different meanings across different international and national legal systems. It is generally assumed that these crimes would be particularly serious in nature, with a high degree of cruelty involved.

Do we have the right to justice?

Just like the right to truth, every person is also eligible for justice, as recognized universally.

How to Observe International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims

  1. Learn about human rights issues

    Study all the fundamental rights and freedoms that you are entitled to as a human being. Spread this knowledge around too, by involving family and friends in your activities.

  2. Learn about human rights defenders

    You can start with Saint Romero, and eventually move on to activists like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Rosa Parks, to name a few. There's plenty of material to source your information from, including documentaries, films, books, and biographies.

  3. Scope out various global activities

    The U.N. holds multiple global activities to promote this day. Plus, they've encouraged member nations to do the same — so you might have an International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims happening in your vicinity, and all you have to do is check. See which ones you can follow online, or offline — if you live nearby.

5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Saint Romero And His Legacy

  1. He was immensely popular among Salvadorians

    His weekly radio sermons on the church's radio station 'YSAX' had the largest listenership of any program in Salvador — 73% of the rural population and 47% of urbanites tuned in regularly.

  2. His funeral was well-attended

    Almost 250,000 mourners attended what other priests called “the largest demonstration in Salvadoran and Latin American history.”

  3. He's an unofficial patron saint

    Many Latin American church groups claim Saint Romero as the (unofficial) patron saint of El Salvador and even Latin America.

  4. He's on Westminster Abbey

    Romero is one of the 20th-century martyrs immortalized in statue form over the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London, a sculpture unveiled in front of Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.

  5. First Hollywood film by priests

    "Paulist Productions", a Roman Catholic production company founded by the Paulist Fathers, produced the 1989 film "Romero," making it the first to be financed by the order in Hollywood.

Why International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims is Important

  1. Truth is a powerful thing

    It forces societies, governments, and people to acknowledge facts they would rather see hidden. Slowly but surely, access to the truth builds a path to justice.

  2. Deters future human rights abuses

    A system to countercheck human rights violations acts as an effective deterrent for those who would otherwise act without regard to the consequences.

  3. We're uncovering past truths

    Not only will we honor the truth about human rights and people we already know, but we also take measures to uncover past truths that might be hidden to this day. With this, we'll finally have answers to difficult questions.

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

YearDateDay
2022March 24Thursday
2023March 24Friday
2024March 24Sunday
2025March 24Monday
2026March 24Tuesday

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