Nigerian authorities continue to impede Bala’s access to justice

  • post Type / Action Alert
  • Date / 15 September 2020

Humanists International is deeply concerned by the continued delays in the case of detained Nigerian humanist and activist Mubarak Bala. Such delays represent a clear violation of Bala’s fundamental human rights and call into question the integrity of the Nigerian justice system. Bala has now been held in incommunicado detention for over four months.

Leo Igwe, Chairman of Humanist Association of Nigeria and Founder of AfAW (Advocacy for Alleged Witches)

Writing for the End Blasphemy Laws Coalition, founder of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Leo Igwe stated:

“Laws are made to guarantee and not violate the rights of human beings. Incidentally, blasphemy laws are used to flagrantly deny basic human rights, including the rights to life, freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of expression. As the cases of Bala, Aminu-Sharif and Farouq have shown, blasphemy laws sanctify religious tyranny and impunity. They are used to legitimize the oppression of minorities, to justify extrajudicial murder, arson, and attacks. ‘Blasphemy’ laws are only a legal recipe for chaos, anarchy, and conflicts in Nigeria. In the interest of peace, justice, and progress, Nigeria should abolish these unjust, incoherent and archaic laws.”

Arrested at his home in Kaduna state on 28 April 2020, Bala was subsequently transferred to Kano state, where a complaint had been filed based on posts Bala is alleged to have made on Facebook which the petitioners judged to be insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.

Bala’s case has been mired by repeated delays and irregularities:

  • Bala has now been held without charge for 140 days in contravention of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
  • There has been no official confirmation of Bala’s whereabouts;
  • Court hearings have been subjected to repeated adjournments owing to the absence of members of the prosecutorial team;
  • Kano State Police Commissioner has refused to comply with an order issued by the court requiring the police to grant Bala access to his legal representatives.

Amina Ahmed’s appeal to the Senate

The failure of the Nigerian authorities to comply with their obligations under national and international law raises concerns for Bala’s physical and mental well-being. In August, Bala’s wife, Amina Ahmed wrote to the Nigerian Senate appealing for proof of life.

Kano state is one of 12 Northern Nigerian states that permits the operation of Sharia courts in parallel with Customary Law. While ‘blasphemy’ is treated as a misdemeanour in Customary Law – punishable with up to two years in prison – it is a capital offence under Sharia Law – applicable only to Muslims. Although Bala renounced Islam in 2014, many individuals in Kano State are calling for him to be put to death. On 10 August 2020, an upper Sharia court in Kano sentenced musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu to death in connection with lyrics he shared over WhatsApp. On the same day, a Sharia court also sentenced a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison for making derogatory comments about Allah in an argument with a friend.

Humanists International believes that Mubarak Bala is being targeted for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and religion or belief, and calls for the case against him to be dropped, for Bala to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for the Nigerian authorities to ensure his safety upon his release. To this end, we urge the Kano State Governor to intervene on behalf of Bala to compel the Kano State Attorney General and Kano State Commissioner for Police to protect Bala’s human rights.

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