Legal Article

Difference between prosecution and persecution

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow


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Published on: 3 Aug, 2023

Difference between prosecution and persecution. Both “prosecution” and “persecution” involve the treatment of individuals by some authority, but the nature, context, and purpose of such treatment are very different. Here are the distinctions between the two:


  1. Context: Legal/Judicial
  2. Definition: Prosecution refers to the process of charging someone with a crime and then trying them in a court of law. It involves the formal initiation or continuation of criminal charges against someone.
  3. Authority: Typically initiated by the state or government, represented by a prosecutor or district attorney in criminal cases.
  4. Purpose: To ensure that individuals who break the law face legal consequences, which can include penalties, fines, or imprisonment.
  5. Procedure: Follows the legal system’s protocols, including the presentation of evidence, the right to defense, and adherence to principles such as “innocent until proven guilty.”


  1. Context: Social/Political/Religious
  2. Definition: Persecution involves oppressive and often unfair treatment, usually of an individual or group, based on race, religion, ethnicity, political beliefs, or other similar factors.
  3. Authority: Can be initiated by the state, religious groups, political entities, or even larger sections of society.
  4. Purpose: Often driven by prejudice, bias, or differing beliefs, the goal is often to marginalize, suppress, harm, or eliminate a particular group or individual.
  5. Procedure: Does not follow legal protocols or principles. Instead, it is characterized by arbitrary actions, and it often violates human rights.

Key Difference:

  • Legal vs. Unfair Treatment: Prosecution is a formal legal process, ideally based on evidence and conducted with fairness, aimed at ensuring justice. Persecution, on the other hand, is an unjust, oppressive, and often violent treatment of individuals or groups based on prejudice or discrimination.

It’s essential to understand these distinctions, especially in contexts like asylum claims. Many individuals seek asylum in foreign countries to escape persecution, not prosecution. However, the lines can blur, especially when states use legal systems and prosecution as tools of persecution.