Author by : Law Library Law Library of Congress
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Description : 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. It is important to note that in many jurisdictions where apostasy is a capital offense, sentencing is conditional on the defendant's behavior once he is charged or convicted. For instance, in Afghanistan, Brunei, Sudan, and Yemen, a conviction for apostasy can be vacated if the defendant denounces his new faith and rejoins Islam. In Mauritania, a person brought on charges of apostasy is given an opportunity to repent both before and after his conviction. If the person repents after his conviction, the country's Supreme Court can dramatically reduce his sentence. In some places, such as Saudi Arabia, the criminalization of apostasy is a result of the wholesale adoption of Sharia'a (Islamic law). In most of the countries that make apostasy a capital offense the crime is made part of the countries' penal code either directly or by reference. For instance, the offense is part of Mauritania's 1983 Criminal Code, the United Arab Emirates' Penal Code of 1987, Sudan's Penal Code of 1991, Yemen's Penal Code of 1994, Qatar's 2004 Penal Law, and Brunei's 2013 Criminal Code (however, in Brunei the provision on apostasy is not yet in force). Afghanistan and Qatar have incorporated the crime of apostasy into their criminal laws by reference to what are known as the hudud offenses. The debate regarding the criminalization of apostasy appears to be ongoing in some of the surveyed countries. In Pakistan, a draft bill making apostasy by men a capital offense was proposed in 2007, but was not adopted. Similarly, in Iran a draft Penal Code containing a provision on apostasy was initially adopted by the country's Parliament in 2008, but ultimately rejected.