Mubarak Bala’s fundamental human rights enforcement case was finally heard in a high court in Abuja today—almost 24 weeks after it was first filed and 25 weeks after Mubarak was incarcerated. Mubarak is the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria. He was arrested on April 28 and detained without being charged and without access to his lawyers.
The defendants in the case were the Nigerian Police Force and the Attorney General of the Federation. Neither party showed up in court so the judge heard the case ex parte (in the absence of the defendants). The Judge announced he would read his decision in court on December 10 but may choose to advise Mubarak’s lawyers ahead of that date.
The petition submitted to the court asked the Judge to:
- Declare that Mubarak’s arrest and detention violate his constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to personal liberty, a fair hearing, freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of movement.
- Declare that denying Mubarak access to his lawyers is a gross infringement of his right to legal representation.
- Order Mubarak’s release from detention.
- Order the Police and Attorney General to issue a public apology.
- Issue a perpetual injunction restraining the police from further violations of Mubarak’s fundamental rights.
Order the state to pay compensation for illegal detention and other violations of fundamental rights.
That Mubarak’s fundamental rights have been violated is not in contention, indeed, the respondents did not even attempt to deny it. That, in my opinion, leaves the Judge duty-bound to order Mubarak’s release although he may deny or compromise other prayers (requests) as he sees fit.
So we (and Mubarak) may have to wait another seven weeks to hear what the Judge decides and that may not be the end of the matter. Sadly, there are precedents for the Nigerian Government ignoring court orders. So we must keep up our advocacy and maintain pressure on the government to act honorably.