Humanists UK at UN urges repeal of blasphemy and apostasy laws in Somalia

7 October, 2021

In its latest intervention at the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK has called on the Government of Somalia to remove blasphemy from its penal code and to repeal the death penalty for apostasy.

Speaking via a video intervention during the Universal Periodic Review of Somalia’s human rights performance, Humanists UK’s Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan stated,

‘We urge the Somali Government to use the opportunity presented by the upcoming redrafting of its Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code to guarantee the right to and strengthen protections for freedom of religion or belief of all citizens.

‘We call upon Somalia to remove Articles 313 and 559 relating to blasphemy from its Penal Code. This would strengthen protection for religious and non-religious minority groups for whom such laws are used to harass, marginalise, and justify vigilante attacks. I wish to highlight the case of Mahmoud Jama Ahmed, an academic who was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in 2019 for a Facebook post in which he questioned the power of prayer. Although an appeal to increase his sentence to death was dismissed and he eventually received a pardon, he has been forced to flee the country due to continued death threats.

‘We implore the Somali Government to heed the example of Sudan last year in repealing the death penalty for apostasy. Somalia is one of 13 countries to still impose the death penalty for the offence of blasphemy or apostasy. This runs counter to resolution 36/17 of this Council which urged all States that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure it is not imposed for specific forms of conduct, including apostasy.’

She also welcomed progress made by the Somali Government in effectively addressing a number of human rights violations, including its recent ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the development of a bill to criminalise all types of female genital mutilation, and the creation of a national action plan on ending sexual violence in conflict.


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

Read the intervention.

Read more about our international campaign work.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.