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United Nations

Australian Statement for the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, 19 October 2021

UNGA Third Committee

Item 74b: – Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

National Statement delivered on 19 October 2021

Australia thanks the Special Rapporteur for his report on freedom of thought[1], and recommendations on how to respect, protect and fulfil freedom of thought.

We are particularly interested in potential violations of this right in the context of religious crimes, including anti-apostasy [or anti-conversion] and anti-blasphemy laws.

Australia firmly believes that everyone has the right to hold any belief or none, to change religion or belief and to manifest religion or belief, either alone or in community with others.

The Special Rapporteur’s report highlights that [in 2020], as many as 21 countries still criminalise apostasy, including 12 countries where apostasy was a capital offense.

Australia would also like to note a recent report from [Monash University in] Australia - Killing in the Name of God: State-Sanctioned Violations of Religious Freedom[2], and thank the Special Rapporteur for writing the forward to this report.

In the forward the Special Rapporteur notes that “there has been a surge of religious intolerance worldwide, including revival of anti-blasphemy and anti-apostasy laws. These laws cannot be justified under the international human rights law framework precisely because this framework protects individuals, rather than religions or beliefs.”

Special Rapporteur, can you explain how anti-blasphemy and anti-apostasy laws foster an environment in which people feel entitled to engage in mob violence and other acts of reprisals against those accused of offending religious morals?

How can leaders and legislators counteract this increase in violence against individuals accused of committing religious crimes?

[243 words / limit = 240]

[1] Advanced Unedited Version -

[2] Alexander, C., Sato, M., Hosen, N., and McLaren, J. (with Ali, M. and Mahmodi, M.) (2021) ‘Killing in the Name of God: State-Sanctioned Violations of Religious Freedom’, Eleos Justice, Monash University.

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