Today at the UN Human Rights Council, I made an intervention on behalf of Humanists UK, calling for the immediate release of President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala. Over 300 days have passed since Mubarak’s forced detention and we believe his treatment starkly illustrates how the global prevalence of blasphemy laws continue to threaten the rights and safety of non-religious people and others across the world.
Mubarak Bala was first arrested in April 2014 and detained in a psychiatric ward on behalf of his humanist beliefs. He was again arrested in April 2020, accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammed via Facebook, contrary to the Cybercrimes Act of Nigeria. Mubarak is yet to be charged for this crime, and so remains detained indefinitely – a gross infringement on his human rights.
A court order issued last July granted him a meeting with legal representation but was ignored by his captors who continued to deny him this basic legal right. It was not until October that he was granted preliminary access to a lawyer, meaning he was imprisoned without any legal representation for six months. Mubarak is also detained in Kano State, a region that allows for the operation of Sharia Courts alongside secular courts, where blasphemy carries the death penalty, and where riots and murder are not uncommon for accusations of blasphemy. There are fears for his safety even while he is held in custody.
Mubarak must be immediately released, and if not, he should be given clear access to his legal counsel and stronger guarantees for his safety.