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  • Dr. Christine M. Sequenzia, MDiv.

Oliva International Calls for the Repeal the Death Penalty for Blasphemy and Apostasy

Oliva International calls for the twelve countries currently exercising the death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy charges to repeal. Dr. Christine M. Sequenzia, Mdiv., principal at Oliva International and co-chair of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable's Campaign to Eliminate Blasphemy and Apostasy Laws, collaborated with stakeholders to develop a charter calling for the immediate repeal of the death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy.




The charter below calls on countries to support language at the biennial United Nations General Assembly that would condemn the death penalty as punishment for apostasy and blasphemy both in practice and in law. Please join us in supporting freedom of religion for people around the world.


Freedom of Religion or Belief

We firmly oppose laws that restrict an individual’s right to choose, practice and change their religion or belief, to tell others about their beliefs and practices, or to openly debate and discuss aspects of faith or belief. Restricting the right to choose or change one’s religion or belief and to question religion or belief doctrines is an assault on the very core of human nature.

New York, NY | United Nations General Assembly


Charter : Repeal the Death Penalty for Blasphemy and Apostasy UNGA Resolution Condemning Extrajudicial Killings for Apostasy and Blasphemy As individuals and organizations who represent diverse religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds, we stand united in our goal of promoting freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, and expression for everyone. We firmly oppose laws that restrict an individual’s right to choose, practice and change their religion or belief, to tell others about their beliefs and practices, or to openly debate and discuss aspects of faith or belief. Restricting the right to choose or change one’s religion or belief and to question religion or belief doctrines is an assault on the very core of human nature. Today at least 70 countries criminalize blasphemy and 21 criminalize apostasy - leaving a religion or belief. Of these, at least 12 nations maintain the death penalty for apostasy or blasphemy: the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Brunei Darussalam, Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Maldives, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, several states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the State of Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Federal Republic of Somalia, United Arab Emirates, and the Republic of Yemen. Even where the death penalty is not applied it has a chilling effect on the legitimate exercise of fundamental human rights as noted by the UN Secretary General in his 2020 report on the death penalty. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings has said that carrying out a death sentence for a “victimless crime,” such as apostasy and blasphemy, constitutes a form of summary or arbitrary deprivation of life.[1] Moreover, all too often the very existence of these laws can serve as a pretext for mob violence, for those who want to take the law into their own hands - to demonstrate their dedication to their faith even to the extent of carrying out horrific mass lynchings. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief has recommended a “triage-based approach” in the work to repeal apostasy and blasphemy laws; prioritizing the repeal of those laws that “put lives at risk,” such as countries which mandate the death penalty or life sentences. We therefore call on States to support language at the biennial UN General Assembly resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions calling for the removal of the death penalty as punishment for apostasy and blasphemy both in practice and in law. We take note of the UN Human Rights Council statement of 9 March 2021, signed by over 50 UN member states which emphasizes that there are no circumstances in which the death penalty should ever be imposed or carried out as a sanction against persons for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms. We urge civil society and nations to speak with one voice in the UN and other multilateral fora and condemn unequivocally the imposition of the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy. [1] Commission on Human Rights, Report of the special rapporteur, Ms. Asma Jahangir, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1999/35, E/CN.4/2000/3, 25 January 2000, para 70.


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