Mubarak Bala’s illegal treatment and draconian sentencing are shocking examples of the abuse of religious power and the lack of respect for human rights in Northern Nigeria. Today, April 28th, 2023, marks the third anniversary of his incarceration for posting comments on Facebook that some Muslims found offensive.
Mubarak was arrested on April 28, 2020, by the police in Kaduna and taken to Kano state. He was held incommunicado for more than six months without access to a lawyer or his family. This is a gross infringement of his constitutional rights and a violation of international human rights.
The Nigerian constitution provides freedom of expression, but Mubarak was charged with a law similar to blasphemy. This law has no place in a modern, democratic society that respects human rights and the rule of law.
Failure to be charged
Mubarak did not appear in court until February 2, 2022, 21 months after his arrest. This is another abuse of his constitutional right to face court within seven days. His prolonged detention without trial violates the principle of the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.
On April 5, 2022, he appeared in court again and was sentenced to 24 years in prison for an offence that is a right guaranteed by the Federal Constitution of Nigeria and by most countries in the world. This sentence is a clear violation of his human rights and sends a chilling message to other humanists, atheists, and free thinkers in Nigeria.
The case of Mubarak Bala is not an isolated incident. It is part of a larger pattern of human rights abuses and violations of the rule of law in Northern Nigeria. This region is known for its strict interpretation of Islamic law, which has led to the imposition of harsh penalties for offences that are not considered crimes in other parts of Nigeria or the world.
The Nigerian government has a responsibility to uphold the human rights of all its citizens, regardless of their religion or belief. The prolonged detention and sentencing of Mubarak Bala are a clear violation of this responsibility and a shameful disgrace to Nigeria’s democracy.
The international community
The international community has spoken out against these abuses and pressed the Nigerian government to respect human rights and the rule of law. On April 20, 2023, the European Parliament adopted text P9_TA(2023)0116 that referred to the case of Mubarak Bala and noted that “blasphemy laws are in clear breach of international human rights obligations, in particular the ICCPR, and contrary to the Nigerian Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom and freedom of expression.” The text urged the Nigerian authorities to repeal all blasphemy laws at the federal and state levels.
The UN Human Rights Council, the African Union, and other regional and international organizations must redouble their efforts for the release of Mubarak Bala and the repeal of all laws that violate freedom of expression and human rights in Nigeria.
The case of Mubarak Bala is a tragic example of the abuse of power and the violation of human rights in Nigeria. His prolonged detention and harsh sentencing for an offence that is a right guaranteed by the constitution are a clear violation of his human rights and the rule of law. The Nigerian government must release him immediately and ensure that all citizens are free to express their beliefs without fear of persecution or imprisonment.