Three Nations on the U.N. Human Rights Council Can Put a Person To Death for Being an Atheist

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 26 2013 1:35 PM

Three Nations on the U.N. Human Rights Council Can Put a Person To Death for Being an Atheist

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Ariane Sherine, Richard Dawkins, and Polly Toynbee pose for pictures beside a London bus displaying "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life"

Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Late last year, the International Humanist and Ethical Union released a report on atheist discrimination that, among other things, named the the seven countries where you can be put to death for being an atheist. On Monday, the organization spoke about anti-atheist discrimination around the globe to the U.N. Human Rights Council, a panel that includes three member states—Pakistan, Mauritania, and Maldives—that were on that not-so-illustrious list. Awkward.

The IHEU's findings aren't new to the U.N.; they presented their full report to them at its December release. But there's some context here that has apparently prompted the group to resubmit their findings to the council, as reported by Reuters: a competing effort by a body of Muslim majority countries (the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation to be exact) to secure international condemnation and restrictions on "defamtion of religion," something the IHEU opposes. That's because, as detailed in their 2012 report, laws that criminalize atheism and non-belief are often framed as blasphemy laws. Muslim majority countries account for the bulk of the more brutal laws against atheists on the books worldwide, but United States and some European countries were also singled out in the full IHEU report. You can read the full report here.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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