WASHINGTON—Iranian citizens are threatened by their own government’s recent moves toward instituting a penal code that for the first time would legally enshrine the death penalty for so-called apostasy. If the proposed penal code, which is nearing final passage, is approved as expected in parliament, members of many religious minority communities could be subject to death sentences. The United States and other governments that value freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief must speak out forcefully against the apostasy provision in the new penal code making its way through the Iranian Parliament.
“The new penal code provision prescribing the death penalty for the so-called crime of apostasy and other crimes is a huge step backwards for human rights,” said Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer. “Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has disparaged foreign criticism of the penal code as ‘global arrogance,’ but no objective observer can present the recent developments in Iranian law as anything but regression. Religious freedom in Iran remains a chimera.”