Humanists UK at UN calls for the immediate release of the President of Humanist Association of Nigeria

15 March, 2021

Nigerian Humanist Association President Mubarak Bala.

In an intervention at the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK has called for the immediate release of the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, who has been detained and imprisoned in Nigeria’s Kano state without charge for over 300 days.

In an intervention made by video during a debate with the President of the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson stated, 

  ‘First arrested in April 2014 and detained in a psychiatric ward on the grounds of his humanist beliefs, Bala since came to lead the Humanist Association of Nigeria and is an important figure for humanists and human rights defenders globally. He subsequently was arrested again in April 2020, accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammed via Facebook, contrary to the Cybercrimes Act of Nigeria. However, Bala is yet to be charged for this crime, and so remains detained indefinitely, which represents a gross infringement on his human rights.

  ‘A court order issued last July granting him a meeting with legal representation was ignored by his captors who continued to deny him this basic legal right. It was not until October that he was granted preliminary access to a lawyer, meaning he was imprisoned without any legal representation for six months. Bala is also detained in Kano State, a region that allows for the operation of Sharia Courts alongside secular courts, where blasphemy carries the death penalty, and where riots and murder are not uncommon for accusations of blasphemy. There are fears for his safety even while he is held in custody.’

Copson went on to call for Mr Bala’s immediate release and for him to be given unfettered access to legal counsel. His treatment starkly illustrates how the global prevalence of blasphemy laws continue to threaten the rights and safety of non-religious people and others across the world.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Read the intervention.

Watch the intervention.

Read more about our work on international campaigns.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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.