Humanists UK has repeated its call on UN actors to work towards the release of Mubarak Bala, the President of the Nigerian Humanist Association who was sentenced to 24 years in prison for posting ‘blasphemous’ content on Facebook in April this year.
Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy, delivered the intervention by video during the 51st Meeting of the UN Human Rights Council. He said:
‘We remain appalled by this outrageous denial of his liberty and his freedom of religion or belief.
‘In the final hearing, he pled guilty to the charges, after what looked like coercion. The fact that he did so should not be held against him – blasphemy should not be a crime in the first place, and the pressure he was clearly under to plead guilty should properly be understood as a cause for further advocacy on his behalf, not less.
‘Even ahead of his unconstitutional sentencing, Bala’s case was long plagued with procedural irregularities, including being arbitrarily detained without charge for 462 days, being denied access to his legal team and his family for months, being denied medical care, and having hearings repeatedly delayed. The Abuja High Court also ruled that he should be released on bail, but this was ignored by the authorities in Kano State, where he was held.’
This is the third time Humanists UK has raised Bala’s case before the Human Rights Council. The intervention requested action from the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief, on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and on the situation of human rights defenders, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to continue working together for his release.
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.
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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.