Humanists UK calls for abolition of blasphemy laws at UN Human Rights Council

18 September, 2017

In a statement at the 36th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Humanists UK has once again condemned the limits on freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression caused by the criminalisation of blasphemy in numerous countries around the world.

Reiterating that blasphemy laws violate the rights enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and run counter to the Rabat Plan of Action, Humanists UK Campaigns Manager Jay Harman highlighted the arbitrary and discriminatory nature of blasphemy legislation, which is so often enforced selectively ‘to persecute minorities and further political agendas’.

Humanists UK, which is part of the End Blasphemy Laws coalition, cited the examples of the death sentence handed to Ahmad Al Shamri in April this year by the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia on charges of ‘atheism and blasphemy’, as well as the case of Raif Badawi, who continues to serve out a sentence of imprisonment and flogging for allegedly insulting Islam.

Concern was also expressed about the extra-judicial nature of the punishments that many alleged blasphemers receive. Since 1990 more than 60 people have been killed in Pakistan during legal proceedings related to blasphemy, and humanists and other activists continue to be killed in the streets of Bangladesh on account of their beliefs.

Mr Harman concluded by calling on all states, even those whose blasphemy laws are not considered ‘active’, to repeal their blasphemy laws at once.  


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on

Read the intervention:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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