(Tunis) – Mauritanian deputies should reject a new draft law that would make the death penalty mandatory for the crime of “insulting” or “mocking” God, the Quran, or the Prophet Muhammad, Human Rights Watch said today.
On November 16, 2017, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s cabinet approved the draft legislation, which would eliminate the possibility under the current law of substituting a prison term for the death penalty if the offender promptly repents.
“Instead of decriminalizing apostasy, as the international treaties they signed would warrant, Mauritanian authorities are hurtling in the opposite direction, closing off alternatives to execution,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
The cabinet’s move came a week after an appeals court sentenced Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir, a blogger convicted of apostasy, to a prison term. The court accepted his repentance as a basis for voiding the death penalty that another court had imposed on him for posting an article denouncing the use of religion to justify discrimination in Mauritania. The case attracted international attention, with some leading Islamists figures and political parties in Mauritania calling for the blogger’s execution.