Humanists UK calls for states with death penalty for blasphemy to follow Sudan’s lead

2 October, 2020

In its latest intervention at the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK has commended Sudan for abolishing the death penalty for apostasy earlier this year, and called on other countries with the death penalty for apostasy or blasphemy to do likewise. However, Humanists UK has also called on Sudan to go further and decriminalise apostasy entirely, and to enhance women’s rights.

In an intervention made by video during the ‘interactive dialogue’ with the UN’s Independent Expert on Sudan, Humanists UK’s Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented:

‘The transitional Government’s commitment to creating a secular constitution has been a significant step in realising [the right to freedom of religion or belief]. Further reforms, including ending the use of public flogging as a form of punishment, and allowing non-Muslims to consume alcohol, have mitigated some of the most extreme aspects of the Shari’a Law-influenced criminal justice system.

‘Sudan has shown that even in a conservative religious country, and in the face of opposition from Islamist extremists, the protection of religion or belief is possible. We hope that the repeal of the death penalty for apostasy will inspire the Governments of Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the UAE, and Yemen to do likewise.’

However, she also asked ‘what more can be done… to ensure that apostasy and “religious insult” are both fully decriminalised and that Sudan signs up to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women?’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Read the intervention.

Watch the intervention. 

Read Humanists UK’s previous statement on Sudan abolishing the death penalty for apostasy.

Read more about our work on 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.