At Humanists UK, we want a tolerant world where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We work to support lasting change for a better society, championing ideas for the one life we have. Our work helps people be happier and more fulfilled, and by bringing non-religious people together we help them develop their own views and an understanding of the world around them. Founded in 1896, we are trusted to promote humanism by 120,000 members and supporters and over 115 members of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. Through our ceremonies, pastoral support, education services, and campaigning work, we advance free thinking and freedom of choice so everyone can live in a fair and equal society.


We are a human rights-based organisation with particular expertise in freedom of religion or

belief. We work closely with Humanists International, the global representative body of the

humanist movement, uniting a diverse range of non-religious organisations and individuals.

Our Chief Executive is also the President of Humanists International. We are also a member

of the European Humanist Federation (EHF). We hold strong relations with the UK Foreign,

Commonwealth, and Development Office, having regular bilateral meetings with relevant

ministers. We are on the steering group of the UK Freedom of Religion or Belief Forum, an

active stakeholder of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion

and Belief, and are a member of its Asylum Advocacy Group. We also are accredited at the

UN Human Rights Council – the only national humanist group to hold such accreditation –

and make interventions there every session. We contribute annually to Humanists

International’s Freedom of Thought Report, and are part of the End Blasphemy Laws

campaign, which has successfully prompted ten countries to repeal their blasphemy laws

since it was founded in 2015.


In the last five years our asylum support service has supported over 90 non-religious asylum claimants who claim asylum on the basis of their lack of a religion. We are the only organisation in the UK providing support to this group. We helped the Home Office develop a training course for asylum assessors on religion or belief claims and delivered training to hundreds of asylum assessors on how to identify genuine non-religious claimants. We are also a member of the Home Office’s National Asylum Stakeholder Forum.



Faith to Faithless[1] is a programme of Humanists UK which works to raise awareness of the issues faced by those who leave high-control religious groups and provide direct support to those affected. Deciding to leave a religion often means rejection from family and community, and apostates may end up homeless, isolated, and at risk of abuse. In addition, many high-control religions prevent members from accessing education or external services, and so individuals don’t know where to turn for support. We provide facilitated peer support and social groups, provide a platform for apostate voices to be heard, and raise awareness of the issues they face. We train statutory and support organisations like the police, social services, and mental health organisations to better understand the issues apostates face, and the policy and practice implications this might have for them. We were founded in 2015. Now run by a staff team of three and advised by a voluntary Leadership Team of apostates with lived experience, the programme has expanded its capacity to both support individuals and effect sustainable change.




  1. We have limited our response specifically to our concerns about the safety of Rwanda as a safe country given it has a blasphemy law that can harm non-religious and minority religious asylum seekers who may be deported to Rwanda under the Bill.

Does the requirement to conclusively treat Rwanda as a safe country comply with the UK’s human rights obligations, including in particular the prohibition of refoulement and the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3 ECHR?


  1. We do not believe that Rwanda is a safe country that complies with human rights obligations such as upholding the right to freedom of religion or belief. This is because Rwanda retains its blasphemy laws where individuals accused of blasphemy can potentially face imprisonment and/or fines. This law may be intended to protect the right to worship, but it is open to misuse as non-religious beliefs can easily be framed as an insult to religion, as we frequently see in other countries.
  2. This raises clear concerns about the potential adverse effects on non-religious asylum seekers, as well as other religious minorities, if deported to Rwanda.
  3. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s Blasphemy Law Compendium[2] highlights the following about Rwanda’s penal code:


‘Article 278: Publicly humiliating a religious worship Any person who, by acts, speeches, gestures, writing or threats, publicly humiliates rites, symbols, or objects of religion, either in place intended for or generally used for the practice of religion shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of at least 15 days but less than 6 months and a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 Rwandan francs, or one of these penalties.


Article 279: Insults, battery, or injury upon a religious leader Any person who, by acts, speeches, gestures, or threats, humiliates a religious leader shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of 6 months to 2 years.


If that religious leader is beaten in the exercise of his/ her ministry, the offender will be liable to a term of imprisonment of 2 to 5 years and a fine of 100,000 to 500,000 Rwandan francs. If the battery results in bleeding, bodily injuries, or illness, the offender shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of 2 to 5 years and fine of 100,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandan francs.


Upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than fifteen (15) days but less than three (3) months and a fine of not less than one hundred thousand Rwandan francs (FRW 100,000) and not more than two hundred thousand Rwandan francs (FRW 2,000,000) or only one of the penalties.


If the battery results in bleeding, bodily injuries, or illness, the offender shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of 2 to 5 years and fine of 100,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandan francs. Law Determining Offences and Penalties in General123 Article 154: Public defamation of religious rituals Any person who publicly defames religious rituals, symbols, and religious cult objects by use of actions, words, signs, writings, gestures, or threats, whether carried out at the place where rituals are intended to be performed or where they are normally performed, commits an offence.’


  1. Humanists Internation’s Freedom of Thought Report[3] further states with regard to Rwanda:


Expression of core humanist principles on democracy, freedom or human rights is severely restricted

‘Blasphemy’ is outlawed or criticism of religion (including de facto ‘blasphemy’ laws) is restricted and punishable with a prison sentence

‘The non-religious are persecuted socially or there are prohibitive social taboos against atheism, humanism or secularism’


  1. Those who have left high control religions (often referred to as apostates) and who are claiming asylum on this basis are particularly vulnerable to being subject to blasphemy laws as they risk being accused of blasphemy when making their asylum claim and/or after resettlement when expressing their beliefs and living authentically.
  2. We can attest that we have in previous instances had translators refuse to assist our non-religious asylum seekers due to considering what the applicant was saying in support of their claim as ‘blasphemous’.
  3. It is further unclear whether Rwanda would be considered a safe country for apostates (and those belonging to minority religions) or whether this would fall under Clause 4 of the Bill which permits the Secretary of State to take a decision that Rwanda may not be a safe country based on a person’s ‘particular individual circumstance’.


(11 January 2024)


[1] Faith to Faithless (2023) <https://www.faithtofaithless.com/> [accessed 8 August 2023].

[2] https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2023-09/2023%20Blasphemy%20Law%20Compendium.pdf

[3] https://fot.humanists.international/countries/africa-eastern-africa/rwanda/