Tag Archives: mubarak bala

Mubarak Bala: One Year After

On April 28, 2021, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released the following statement regarding Mubarak Bala.

You may also wish to read Wole Soyinka’s letter on the 100th day of Mubarak’s detention.


One year after: Authorities must comply with Federal High Court decision to release Mubarak Bala on bail

GENEVA (28 April 2021) – UN experts* today called on Nigerian authorities to comply with the decision of the Federal High Court to release the prominent humanist and rights defender Mubarak Bala on bail.

“Today marks one year since Mr. Bala was arrested and detained in Kano State, without any formal charges, on allegations of blasphemy. His arbitrary detention has continued despite our appeals to the Government in May and July last year,” the human rights experts said.

As president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mr. Bala had led human rights education campaigns promoting freedom of religion or belief and worked to raise awareness about religious extremism. His arrest on 28 April 2020 followed a petition filed with Kano police a day earlier alleging that he had insulted the Prophet Muhammad in Facebook posts.

“The arrest and prolonged detention of Mr. Bala is not only a flagrant violation of fundamental rights, but it has also had a chilling effect on the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Nigeria,” the UN experts said. “Through his continued detention, the Government is sending the wrong signal to extremist groups that the silencing and intimidation of human rights defenders and minority non-believers is acceptable.”

On 21 December 2020, the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that Mr. Bala’s detention, as well as the denial of his ability to choose his own legal representation, constituted gross infringements of his rights to personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of thought, expression and movement. The Court ordered his release on bail and that he be awarded damages of 250,000 Naira (about 650 US dollars).

“We are disappointed that the respondents failed to comply with the Court’s order and blatantly undermined the competence of the judicial system,” said the experts. “The Government must take action to ensure that the responsible authorities respect the due process and enforce the judicial ruling.”

On 27 January, Mr. Bala’s lawyer filed another petition to the Federal High Court in Abuja to summon for Mr. Bala’s bail pending trial, if any. A hearing was scheduled for 20 April, which has not yet taken place because Courts are on strike.

“As soon as the Courts resume, the hearing of the new petition must proceed promptly and the authorities must end this unjustified prolonged detention of Mr. Bala for good,” the experts said.

“We remain deeply concerned for Mr. Bala’s security due to continuous death threats and his overall well-being in detention. Such prolonged incarceration may also amount to a form of psychological torture that could severely impact on his mental and physical health in consequence.

“International law protects everyone’s freedom of thought, conscience and religion or beliefs and the right to opinion and expression but it does not protect religions or beliefs per se. The use of blasphemy law is against international human rights law and the imposition of death penalty based for blasphemy is doubly egregious,” stressed the experts.  


*The experts: Mr. Ahmed Shaheed,Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or beliefMs. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defendersMr.Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishmentMs. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental healthMr. Morris Tidball-BinzSpecial Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;  Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issuesMs. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression; and Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief

UN Human Rights, country page: Nigeria

For more information and media requests please contact: Ms. Chian Yew Lim (+ 41 22 917 9938 / clim@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact: Mr. Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org)Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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Citations and References

  1. https://humanists.international/2020/08/wole-soyinka-sends-message-of-solidarity-to-mubarak-bala/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/aug/06/wole-soyinka-protests-imprisonment-of-nigerian-humanist-mubarak-bala
  3. https://freemubarakbala.org/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wole_Soyinka
  5. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=27033&LangID=E
  6. https://allafrica.com/stories/202104280898.html
  7. https://religionnews.com/2021/04/30/global-pressure-mounts-for-nigerian-atheists-release-after-year-in-detention/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.


Wole Soyinka : A Letter to Mubarak Bala

On August 6, 2020 Humanists International published a letter by Nobel Prize winning writer Wole Soyinka in support of Mubarak Bala.

According to Humanists International’s campaign website, Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested on April 28, 2020 following allegations that he insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad on social media. Bala’s current arrest is not his first experience of systemic faith-based oppression. In 2014, Bala was detained on the grounds that he was an atheist.

In his letter, Soyinka wrote, “As a child I remember living in a state of harmonious coexistence all but forgotten in the Nigeria of today, as the plague of religious extremism has encroached.” Throughout Soyinka’s life, he has been a leading voice opposing injustice and corruption in Nigerian Society. Following a military coup in 1966, Soyinka sought to avert a Nigerian civil war. This attempt to work toward peace resulted in Soyinka’s imprisonment for 22 months.

Soyinka continued in his letter to Mubarak, “When I accepted the International Humanist Award at the World Humanist Congress in 2014, I spoke of the conflict between Humanists and Religionists; one of enlightenment versus the chains of enslavement. Your arbitrary incommunicado detention over the last 100 days is the cruel reality of this conflict. All too often these chains of enslavement lead directly to the gallows or a prison cell.

Harassment, imprisonment and other forms of violence and oppression by authoritarian ideological regimes is both an ancient and a contemporary theme. In recent years, one need only recall the cases of Raif Badawi, Noreen “Asia” Bibi, Avijit Roy and a long-list of others from nations around the world to recall that freedom of expression may be contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it is far from universally protected.

Mubarak’s legal team claims that they have been unable to access Mubarak and have asked Nigerian authorities to clarify where he’s being held.

Why Activist Mubarak Bala Was Arrested For Insulting ...
Mubarak Bala

Humanists International has stated that their perspective that Bala is being targeted solely for exercising his rights of freedom of belief and freedom of expression, as contained in international and regional instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory as well as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.

Despite the modest media attention that Mubarak Bala’s case has created and may continue to receive, the plight of a Nigerian humanist and human rights activist is still quite far from the attention or concern for those who may currently be living in ideologically comfortable settings. Perhaps letting this situation slip one’s notice is a dangerous apathy. We may not be so very far removed from extreme embodiments of ideological cancel cultures as we would like to think.

Signing Humanists International’s statement regarding Mubarak Bala could be an excellent place to show support for global freedom of expression and opposition to all forms of ideological oppression.

Citations and References

  1. https://humanists.international/2020/08/wole-soyinka-sends-message-of-solidarity-to-mubarak-bala/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/aug/06/wole-soyinka-protests-imprisonment-of-nigerian-humanist-mubarak-bala
  3. https://freemubarakbala.org/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wole_Soyinka

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Featured Photo Courtesy of Humanists International.


Version History: This article was originally published on August 8, 2020 and was updated on August 9, 2020.