Joint statement led by Australia on the death penalty as a punishment for blasphemy and apostasy, 9 March 2021
United Nations Human Rights Council 46th session
The death penalty as a punishment for blasphemy and apostasy
Joint statement led by Australia, Item 3 General Debate
9 March 2021
I have the honour of delivering this statement on behalf of more than 40 states, including my own country, Australia.
The rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association are fundamental to the dignity of human life. These rights are mutually reinforcing, universal, inalienable, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. They are protected in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
And yet, there remain places in the world where a person may be put to death for leaving a religion or for expressing a dissenting opinion about a religion.
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.
Even where the death penalty is not carried out in practice, the mere existence of this punishment for blasphemy or apostasy in the laws and regulations of a state has what the Secretary-General has called a “significant chilling effect on the legitimate exercise of human rights”. These laws can be used as a pretext to justify violence in the name of religion.
Religious freedom and tolerance are vital for open and resilient societies. We call on those states where the death penalty remains an available punishment for blasphemy or apostasy to remove the possibility of that penalty being imposed or carried out, both in practice and in law. We urge states to release individuals currently on death row or otherwise imprisoned for these offences.
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
- United States
 “Capital punishment and the implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, Yearly supplement of the Secretary-General to his quinquennial report on capital punishment”, A/HRC/42/28