Humanists UK at UN tells the Maldives to end the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy

18 March, 2021

In an intervention at the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK has called upon the Maldivian Government to repeal criminal sanctions imposed for apostasy and blasphemy and release those detained for these crimes.

In an intervention made by video during the debate on the Universal Periodic Review of the Maldives’ human rights record, Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson stated, 

‘Resolution 36/17 [of the UN Human Rights Council] explicitly condemns “the imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy [and] blasphemy”. This reaffirms the commitments outlined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that all have the freedom to leave a religion, or positively hold non-religious beliefs.

‘Yet in the Maldives, apostasy remains punishable by death and blasphemy by imprisonment. Only 12 other countries similarly have the death penalty for blasphemy or apostasy. The Government requires that all citizens identify as Muslim and are only guaranteed freedom of expression so long as their expressions comply with the tenets of Islam. Consequently, attitudes towards humanist values are extremely hostile.’

Mr Thompson went on to call for the Maldivian Government to fully implement and protect freedom of religion or belief, including for apostates and the non-religious. He stated that this could only be achieved through abolishing the crimes of blasphemy and apostasy, starting with the removal of the death penalty.


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.

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