Advocacy statements

Mubarak Bala

  • Date / 2022
  • Location / Nigeria
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights

Oral statement

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 49th Session (28 February – 1 April 2022)

General Debate Item 3

Thank you Mister President,

We thank the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief for his recent report on religious and belief minorities in conflict situations.

As his report notes, in northern Nigeria, religious extremism and a failure to uphold the rule of law have resulted in rights violations for minorities across the belief spectrum. Selective accusations of ‘blasphemy’, often followed by threatened and real acts of violence, make it dangerous to publicly identify as a humanist.

Strong social taboos against the criticism or questioning of religion or religious practices cause many to turn to self-censorship. This creates a repressive environment for civil society activists, and it stifles freedom of thought, expression and artistic creativity as a whole.

Almost two years on from his arrest, Mubarak Bala, leader of the Nigerian Humanist Association, remains detained in connection with Facebook posts of his said to contain ‘blasphemous’ content.

Authorities in Kano State are obstructing the proceedings against him, ignoring a ruling from the High Court in Abuja[1] and a call for his release from several UN experts.[2] He spent more than a year in arbitrary detention before formal charges were brought against him, in what amounts to a gross violation of his fair trial rights.[3]

Mr. President, Mubarak’s case illustrates all too well how those who question or challenge religious orthodoxy in northern Nigeria can effectively be stripped of their rights and humanity.

We call on Human Rights Council member States to work with the authorities in Nigeria to advocate for Mubarak’s swift and safe release. We all want to see Mubarak free and reunited with his family, once and for all.

[1] https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=27033&LangID=E

[2] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26123&LangID=E

[3] https://humanists.international/case-of-concern/mubarak-bala/

Suggested academic reference

'Mubarak Bala', Humanists International

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