To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent steps he has taken to help prevent the misuse of blasphemy legislation globally.
13 April 2021
The UK is committed to defending freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all, and to promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities. We remain deeply concerned by the use of blasphemy laws. These laws generally limit freedom of expression and are only compatible with international human rights law in narrow circumstances. We regularly apply diplomatic pressure to countries that use blasphemy laws. This often involves private lobbying, as it can be the most effective way of resolving a sensitive case or bringing about longer term change.
Promoting the right to FoRB is one of the UK's human rights priorities. Bilaterally, ministers and officials regularly raise specific cases of concern, and discuss practices and laws that discriminate on the basis of religion or belief. Multilaterally, we work within the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance ('Alliance'), and other international organisations and networks to promote and protect FoRB for all where it is threatened. The Minister responsible for Human Rights, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, underlined the UK's commitment to FoRB for all in a number of international meetings in November 2020, speaking at the Ministerial to Advance FoRB and the Ministers' Forum of the Alliance. On 20 December 2020, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to FoRB by appointing Fiona Bruce MP as his Special Envoy for FoRB. Mrs Bruce represents the UK at meetings of the Alliance, which works to advocate for the rights of individuals being discriminated against or persecuted on the basis of their faith or belief.