Humanists International’s MENA Advocacy & Casework Consultant, Kacem El Ghazzali, highlighted that arbitrary detention “is one of the most serious violations of human rights; it not only deprives detainees of their liberty, but also denies them access to legal means of defense, making them vulnerable to ill-treatment, torture or forcible disappearance.”
The cases of Bala and Sathkumara illustrate the dangers of arbitrary detention all too well. Both have suffered egregious violations of their rights to liberty and fair trial for being vocal advocates of freedom of expression and religion or belief, in Nigeria and Sri Lanka respectively.
Bala has now been held without charge for over 140 days. There has been no official confirmation of his whereabouts, court hearings have been repeatedly adjourned due to the failure of the prosecutorial team to attend court, and the Kano State Police Commissioner has refused to comply with a court order requiring the police to grant Bala access to his legal representatives.
Sathkumara was arbitrarily detained for 127 days in 2019, for writing a short story which was allegedly derogatory and defamatory to Buddhism. Despite the completion of the police investigation again him in June 2019, he is still awaiting a decision as to whether he will be charged.
Humanists International concluded its intervention by calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Mubarak Bala and for the charges against Sathkumara to be withdrawn, and by urging all UN members and observers concerned about arbitrary detention and the right to free expression and belief to do the same.
Humanists International’s full statement is available to read here.