Name: Mubarak Bala
Country/Area of Origin: Nigeria
Background: Mubarak Bala is the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria. Formerly a chemical engineer and Muslim, in 2014, Bala renounced Islam and became an atheist. Bala’s family was extremely critical of this conversion, and his father had him arrested and eventually put into a psychiatric institution for almost a month. Following his release, Bala became a prominent atheist activist
Reason for Arrest:
On April 27, 2020, Bala was accused by a law firm in Kano, Kano State, Nigeria of making blasphemous posts on the internet denigrating the Prophet Muhammad, and according to The Humanist, “the petitioners alleged that Bala’s posts will incite the Muslim community and lead to public disturbance.”
The following day, Bala was arrested in Kaduna State, Nigeria and was transferred to Kano State following his arrest, though his whereabouts remain undisclosed. Bala was not formally charged and is therefore being subjected to unlawful detention, and it is believed that he may be rejected from accessing legal counsel.
- On 30 April 2021, USCIRF tweeted comments by Commissioner Frederick Davie welcoming the UN statement below. Commissioner Davie stated:
- “We’re pleased that Mubarak Bala’s case is a priority for the UN, and adamantly echo their call for his release.”
- On 28 April 2021, the first anniversary of Bala’s arrest, a group of 8 United Nations experts* released a statement calling for his release:
- “Today marks one year since Mr. Bala was arrested and detained in Kano State, without any formal charges, on allegations of blasphemy. His arbitrary detention has continued despite our appeals to the Government in May and July last year.”
- “The arrest and prolonged detention of Mr. Bala is not only a flagrant violation of fundamental rights, but it has also had a chilling effect on the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Nigeria. Through his detention, the Government is sending the wrong signal to extremist groups that the silencing and intimidation of human rights defenders and minority non-believers us acceptable.”
- “As soon as the Courts resume, the hearing of the new petition must proceed promptly and the authorities must end this unjustified prolonged detention of Mr. Bala for good.”
- * Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief); Ms. Mary Lawlor (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders); Mr. Nils Melzer (Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment); Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng (Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health); Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions); Mr. Fernand de Varennes (Special Rapporteur on minority issues); Ms. Irene Khan (Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression); and Mr. Diego García-Sayán (Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers)
- In March 2021, it was reported that there is a new Commissioner of Police in Kano State, Sama’ila Shuaibu Dikko. In response to the new commissioner, hopes have raised regarding cases relating to law enforcement in Kano State; many expect Commissioner Dikko to “uphold the rule of law, not the rule of the Islamic mob, as was the case under Sani [former Commissioner of Police].
- On 17 September 2020, USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie adopted Mubarak Bala via USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, and made the following remarks:
- “There is absolutely no reason why Mubarak Bala should continue to be held in detention without charge, seemingly for nothing more than exercising his right to freedom of belief and expression. His incommunicado status is particularly alarming. The Nigerian government must take all steps necessary to confirm his whereabouts and safety, and ensure that he is afforded a fair trial in a secular court. If his only alleged crime is blasphemy, he must immediately be released and allowed to return home to his family.” – USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie