Brunei’s death penalty for blasphemy is ‘serious human rights breach’

18 September, 2019

UN in Geneva

Brunei’s re-introduction of the death penalty in 2019 for so-called ‘crimes’ including blasphemy and homosexuality have been condemned by Humanists UK at the 42th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In Humanists UK’s intervention at the UN, representative Farah Mohammed raised serious concerns about Brunei Darussalam’s new Syariah Penal Code Order which includes legislation allowing for death by stoning for blasphemy, and a number of other acts including homosexuality, rape, and extramarital sex.

She said: ‘This legislation represents a serious degradation in the right to freedom of thought and expression, and religion or belief. The new penal code will in effect turn prison sentences into capital punishment for blasphemy, which the international community not only does not consider to be among the ‘most serious crimes’ but should not be criminalised at all.’

She added: ‘We welcomed the Sultan of Brunei’s announcement in May that executions will not be carried out… however we remain concerned that the death penalty and corporal punishments will remain on the statute books, and as such could still be imposed at any time, and will continue to propagate hateful and discriminatory views towards religious, non-religious, and LGBT minorities.’

Humanists UK urged Brunei Darussalam to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Second Optional Protocol, and in doing so abolish the death penalty in law as well as in practice.

Humanists UK is accredited at the UN Human Rights Council – the only national humanist group to hold such accreditation – and makes interventions at every session.

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 or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read Humanists UK’s intervention on Brunei.

Read our news item calling for the death penalty to be abolished for blasphemy and apostasy globally.

Read more about our international campaigns.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.