Humanists UK has called for all states to abolish blasphemy and apostasy laws and to recognise the right to express religious dissent as a central tenet of the right to freedom of expression, at the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Humanists UK’s representative Rachel Taggart-Ryan told the UN, ‘in the last four years, seven countries have abolished their blasphemy laws, including New Zealand last week. The people of the Republic of Ireland voted in a referendum in October to do the same, and the Government of Spain has also committed to this.
‘Despite this progress, 13 countries maintain the death penalty for blasphemy or apostasy, and it remains an imprisonable offense in over 40 more. As the recent high-profile acquittal of Asia Bibi in Pakistan demonstrates, blasphemy laws are used in many countries as a means of persecuting minority groups, including the non-religious, and give legitimacy to intercommunal and mob violence.’
Ms Taggart-Ryan reminded the UN that in 2011 it made it clear under General Comment 34 that blasphemy and apostasy laws are incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and therefore such laws must be repealed so that states can continue to comply with their obligations under this instrument.
Humanists UK is a member of the End Blasphemy Laws coalition.
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3078.
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.