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.
Back to Index of Legal Reports This report surveys the apostasy laws of twenty-three countries in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia and primarily focuses on jurisdictions that make apostasy, or renouncing one’s religion, 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.
In many of the jurisdictions surveyed, both those that impose criminal penalties for apostasy and those that do not, a finding of apostasy may have consequences related to matters of inheritance and the validity of the marital relationship of the individual concerned.
For example, under Sharia’a, a Muslim spouse who converts to any other religion may not inherent from his/her Muslim relatives or spouse.
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.
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.
For example, in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen, individuals were charged with apostasy for their writings or comments made on social media.