In a statement delivered at the 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Humanists International has called the attention of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the international community to the cases of Mubarak Bala and Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali in Nigeria and Iran respectively.
The statement, delivered by Humanists International’s Advocacy Officer, Leon Langdon, began by outlining the case of Mubarak Bala, who was arbitrarily detained for 15 months in Nigeria and denied his right to a fair trial. Bala, who is President of the Humanists Association of Nigeria, was subsequently sentenced to 24 years in prison for causing a public disturbance in 2022.
The statement called on the Working Group to urgently address his case. This follows an ongoing appeal made by Humanists International to the Working Group to address Bala’s case, including a joint submission with Freedom House and Freedom Now earlier this year. The statement also and called on the Nigerian authorities to quash his conviction and uphold his rights to freedom of belief and expression, which are protected under the Nigerian Constitution
The statement highlighted the case of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian researcher sentenced to death in Iran on false charges of espionage and “spreading corruption on earth” (mofsed-e-filarz – a broadly defined crime capable of encompassing anything deemed undesirable by the state and usually used against alleged “blasphemers”). Djalali is at immediate risk of death, and is in horrific conditions, both physically and mentally. He has been repeatedly subjected to torture and repeatedly denied access to his lawyer. Recently, the Iranian government has once again, via the media, threatened his execution.
Unlike with Bala’s case, Dr. Djalali’s case has been reviewed by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, who confirmed that he is being arbitrarily detained. Since then, multiple Special Rapporteurs – high-level UN human rights experts – have called for his release, along with calls from many NGOs and states themselves. Humanists International called on the international community, especially Sweden, of which Dr. Djalali is a citizen, to step up pressure on Iran for his immediate release.
The statement was delivered as part of a General Debate at the 54th Session of the Human Rights Council. The debate focused on Item 3, the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.