Humanists UK has urged the UN to keep pushing for the immediate release of the President of the Nigerian Humanist Association, Mubarak Bala, and to ask the Nigerian Government to repeal its law criminalising blasphemy. Mr Bala has been imprisoned without trial for almost two years, after facing accusations of blasphemy. UN experts have previously made a similar call, and in an intervention today at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Humanists UK asked them to repeat this.
The intervention was made by video by Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy, Richy Thompson, during the Council’s Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed. In his comments, Richy said:
‘We are concerned about the situation in Nigeria where apostasy and blasphemy are outlawed by customary and sharia systems alike, and punishable by death in states subject to sharia law. While constitutionally there is no official state religion, Islam is often regarded as the de facto state religion in nine of Nigeria’s northern states.
‘We have long advocated for the release of the human rights activist and President of the Nigerian Humanist Association, Mubarak Bala. He has been illegally detained for nearly 700 days, denied access to his lawyer, and only had his first court appearance last month. It has been almost two years since a group of UN experts, led by you, stated ‘the arrest and detention of Mr. Bala amounts to persecution of non-believers in Nigeria’, and called for his immediate release. The experts further noted that ‘reports have indicated that the small community of non-religious people or non-believers in Nigeria constantly face harassment, discrimination, persecution and prohibitive social taboos’.
Humanists UK also highlighted the cases of other recent victims of Nigeria’s blasphemy laws, namely musician Yahaya Sharif- Aminu, who was sentenced to death in Kano state in 2020 for circulating a song about the Prophet Muhammed via WhatsApp, and a 13-year-old boy now serving 10 years in prison for insulting God.
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Read UN experts 2020 statement on Mubarak Bala.
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