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Laws Criminalizing Apostasy in Selected Jurisdictions

Date Published: 
Thursday, 1 May, 2014

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Summary: 

This report surveys the apostasy laws of twenty-three countries in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. The survey primarily focuses on jurisdictions that make apostasy a capital offense. However, several countries that have adopted broadly-defined laws on blasphemy and insult to religion, which could potentially be used to prosecute persons for apostasy, have also been included, as well as one country that expressly prohibits extrajudicial punishment for allegations of apostasy. The countries surveyed that expressly make apostasy a capital offense are Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. However, only a small number of cases showing the application of these capital punishment laws were identified. Only two cases were identified that resulted in conviction for religious conversion— one in Iran in 1994 and another in Sudan in 2014. The country surveys also indicate that apostasy laws are frequently used to charge persons for acts other than conversion. For example, in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen, individuals were charged with apostasy for their writings or comments made on social media. Of the countries researched, it appears that Iran is the only one that has executed a person convicted of apostasy to date