On 5 April 2022, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the peaceful expression of his non-religious beliefs, under Sections 210 and 114 of the Kano State Penal Code.
During the September session of the UN Human Rights Council, Dr. Leo Igwe, who is a Board member of Humanists International and close advisor to Bala’s legal team, spoke before the Council to provide an update on Bala’s case. The statement marks the first time that Bala’s case has been raised before the UN since his sentence was handed down in April.
Dr. Igwe alerted the Council to the fact that Nigerian authorities remain “deeply prejudiced” against Bala, as demonstrated by their failure to accord him any of the leniency that should have been granted to him as a result of his guilty plea. In July, Humanists International reported that the Kano State High Court was continuing to cause unnecessary delays by failing to facilitate the release of court documents essential to the appeals process.
Dr. Igwe warned the Council that Bala’s conviction would embolden religious fanatics in Nigeria to attack those who question or criticize religious ideas. One month after Bala’s conviction, Deborah Samuel, a female student, was violently murdered by a mob in Sokoto state after she was accused of sending a ‘blasphemous’ voice message via Whatsapp.
Dr. Igwe’s statement made reference to the recent report by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which regrettably failed to mention Bala despite his case clearly meeting the threshold for arbitrary detention. He concluded by urging all members of the Council to utilize all means available to them to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to work towards Bala’s immediate and unconditional release.
Dr. Igwe’s intervention can be watched in full here:
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