The plight of Nigerian Humanist Association President Mubarak Bala, who has now been held for five months without charge for alleged blasphemy, was raised in the UK Parliament today by the Labour front bench, with the UK Government concurring with the opposition about the severity of the case, and committing to do everything possible to secure his release.
Mubarak Bala was arrested at his home in April for an allegedly blasphemous Facebook post, and hasn’t been heard from since. Last week Humanists International summarised the case thus:
‘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.’
In May, Foreign Office minister James Duddridge MP raised Bala’s case with the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, following meetings other ministers in his department had had with Humanists UK. In July, eleven United Nations experts, including six special rapporteurs, issued a joint call for the Nigerian Government to immediately release him. In August, they were joined by the Nigerian nobel laureate and Humanists UK patron, Wole Soyinka.
Now Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Lord Collins of Highbury, who is also a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, has raised the case in the Lords, saying:
‘My Lords, can I ask the noble Lord, the minister about another individual case, which is Mubarak Bala, President of the Nigerian Humanist Association, who’s been held on blasphemy charges since April. He’s not had access to a lawyer, nor had family visits since he was first arrested. I know the noble Lord is aware of this case, because it was raised at a ministerial level back in May or June, but can I ask him now, what steps is he taking to ensure that Mubarak Bala is given access to his legal team? If there is to be any justice at all, his arbitrary detention of 87 [in fact now 146] days without charge must end.’
Responding, Foreign Office Human Rights Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said:
‘My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, and we continue to make representations. It’s a case I’m fully aware of and we’ll continue to make sure that he gets the access the noble Lord mentions.’
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented:
‘We thank the UK Government for committing to make further representations on Mubarak Bala’s behalf, and the Labour front bench for raising this matter.
‘Bala has now been held without charge for almost five months, for a crime that shouldn’t even be illegal to start with. He has not been heard from since he was first imprisoned. We urge the Nigerian Government to release him without further delay, or at the very least give him access to his family and lawyers.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at email@example.com or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.