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WEA Religious Liberty: Iran - Apostasy Law

February 17, 2009


WEA
strongly condemns the systematic and ongoing violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the
accused, especially for religious minorities such as protestant Christians. 

WEA notes that the constitution of Iran formally recognizes Christians as protected religiousminorities who may worship freely and have autonomy over their own matters of personal status.Nevertheless, the primacy of Islam and Islamic laws, in particular the recent Apostasy law,would adversely affects the rights and status of Christian minorities, who are already subject tosevere forms of discrimination. 

WEA acknowledges that Christians in Iran, in particular Evangelicals, continue to be subject toharassment, arrests, close surveillance, and imprisonment.

WEA also recalls that the IranianPresident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly has called for an end to the development ofChristianity in Iran, and that over the past few years, there have been several incidents of Iranianauthorities raiding church services, detaining worshippers and church leaders, and harassing andthreatening church members. 

WEA expresses concern over the recent penal code revision, and opposes the death penalty as amatter of law and policy. This law clearly violates the Islamic Republic of Iran’s commitmentsunder the international human rights conventions, by codifying serious punishments, includingthe death penalty on converts from Islam. Therefore, it is considered in itself a clear violation ofArticle 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which reads: “Every humanbeing has the inherent right to life” an important and binding international document which Iranhas ratified in 1975 without any pre-conditions, in addition to Article 3 of the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights which reads; “ Everyone has the right to life”, and Article 18 of thesame declaration which reads: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience andreligion.

WEA herby expresses its deep and grave concerns and apprehension of the implications of thePenal Code, which sets out a mandatory death sentence for apostasy, in addition to other severelimitations and restrictions on freedom of religion and belief. Therefore,

WEA calls upon the Iranian authorities, both in government and parliament, toaddress the substantive concerns highlighted in this letter, and to fully respect its human rightsobligations, in law and in practice. 

WEA calls for abolishment of the death penalty carried out in the absence of respect forinternationally recognized safeguards. 

WEA calls on all democratic governments at the highest levels, to vigorously speak out publiclyabout the deteriorating conditions for freedom of religion or belief in Iran, and draw attention tothe need for the international community to hold authorities accountable in specific cases wheresevere violations have occurred or will occur especially in respect to the recently passedApostasy law that legalizes the death penalty for apostates. 

WEA calls on the UN Human Rights Council to monitor carefully and call for with therecommendations of the representatives of those special mechanisms that have already visitedIran, particularly those of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (1995). 

Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe
Executive Director - International Director / CEO
World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)

Mr. Godfrey Yogarajah
Religious Liberty Commission
World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)