Difference Between Persecution and Prosecution

Persecution vs Prosecution

Persecution and prosecution are two words that look alike and create some confusion, but, if you look at their meanings, you can observe some difference between them. Indeed, many of us can distinguish the terms ‘Persecution’ and ‘Prosecution’ with ease. Hence, it is natural for us to assume that identifying the difference is fairly simple and straightforward. However, many still confuse the usage of the terms perhaps largely owing to their similarity in sound. This is an honest mistake, one that can be rectified by simply understanding the definitions of both terms. While the term ‘Prosecution’ has more than one meaning, such as the act of participating or pursuing something to completion, for the purposes of this article, we will look at the legal meaning of Prosecution. To begin with, think of Persecution as the ill-treatment of someone and Prosecution as a legal procedure.

What does Persecution mean?

The term ‘Persecution’ is defined as the infliction of suffering or harm upon a person by reason of his/her religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political opinion, or social status. It is an intense form of abuse involving acts that amount to harassment, cruel or inhumane treatment or torment. Persecution refers to the act of persecuting or the state of being persecuted. Thus, the act of persecuting refers to a mission or organized plan to segregate and harass a person or group of people based on either one or more of the reasons set out above. The group of people subjected to such harassment and experiencing the same constitutes the state of being persecuted. Persecution derives from the word persecute, which translated from its Latin origin means to ‘follow with hostility’. Therefore, think of Persecution as oppression caused to a person or group of people. An example of this is the Jewish Holocaust wherein the primary goal of the Nazi regime was the persecution and eradication of the Jewish race. Another example of Persecution was seen in the intense harassment and torment caused to minority groups in Rwanda and Somalia.

Difference Between Persecution and Prosecution

Jewish mass grave near Zolochiv, West Ukraine.

What does Prosecution mean?

As mentioned before, Prosecution, in law, refers to a legal procedure. It is defined as the institution and continuance of a criminal action that involves the process of pursuing formal charges against the defendant to final judgment. Simply put, Prosecution refers to the conducting of a lawsuit or court action. Most often the term ‘Prosecution’ is associated with criminal cases wherein the government or state will file charges against a person accused of committing a crime. Thus, the legal team representing the government is generally referred to as the Prosecution. Their ultimate objective is to secure a conviction by proving beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime. However, the term ‘Prosecution’ can also refer to a judicial proceeding brought by one party against another, where the party initiating the action will prosecute the other for a particular wrong committed or violation of a right. Thus, for example, a company may conduct a prosecution against another by initiating legal action to obtain damages. The act or the process of prosecuting typically involves the presentation of facts and evidence pertaining to the case and the final decision. Therefore, it is best to remember the term ‘Prosecution’ as the process by which legal action against a person is commenced and a conviction is sought. Further, keep in mind that it also refers to the party initiating legal action against another.

What is the difference between Persecution and Prosecution?

• Persecution refers to the act of persecuting, which means inflicting harm or causing oppression or harassment to a person or group of people based on race, religion, or gender. It is illegal and constitutes a violation of human rights.

• Prosecution refers to a legal procedure, which involves the institution and continuance of a legal proceeding by one party against another, with the aim of pursuing a trial and thereafter obtaining a conviction against that person. It also refers to the party commencing legal action against another.


Images Courtesy: Jewish Holocaust via Wikicommons (Public Domain)