Mubarak Bala held illegally for one year
Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested in Kaduna, Nigeria on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. He was held overnight and taken to Kano State the following day. At the time of writing, he is still incarcerated and he has not appeared in front of a court. Today, Mubarak has been illegally detained for one year.
The Nigerian Constitution is clear, a detained person must be charged and brought before a court within 7 days. Mubarak has not been charged and he has not been brought before a court.
Mubarak’s lawyers have been denied access to him, contrary to the requirements of the Constitution. In July 2020, a court ordered Kano authorities to grant his lawyers access. The Court Order was disregarded. It was not until November, seven months after his arrest, that his lawyers were able to speak to him and confirm he was still alive.
Kano authorities denied Mubarak a list of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, so his lawyers went to court to restore his rights. The petition was filed on May 8, 2020. According to the law, such a case must be treated as an emergency and must be heard within seven days. To its shame, the Nigerian court system in collaboration with Kano State lawyers repeatedly delayed the hearing for 164 days. The case was heard on October 19, 2020. The decision, delivered on December 21, 2020, was that Mubarak must be released immediately and paid compensation for the infringement of his fundamental rights.
Mubarak was not released.
Why was Mubarak arrested?
A complaint against Mubarak was raised on Monday, April 27 by S. S. Umar & Co, a law firm from Kano. It alleged Bala’s Facebook posts were “provocative and annoying to the Muslims”. The complaint, sent to the Kano Commission of Police, highlights a post made on April 25, which rendered in English, reads,
“There is no difference between the prophet TB Joshua of Lagos and Prophet Mohammad of Saudi Arabia, our own from Nigeria is even better in that he was not a terrorist.”
The complaint says Mubarak’s remarks “will definitely incite Muslims and provoke them to take the law into their own hands, which may ultimately result into public disturbance and breach of the peace.”
As the complainants admit, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees citizens the right to freedom of expression. But their concern was not to protect Mubarak’s guaranteed constitutional rights, it was to deny him those rights in order to defend those Muslims who might create public disturbances and breaches of the peace which are ILLEGAL actions. In other words, they sought to defend potential criminals by denying a law-abiding citizen his guaranteed rights!
For the avoidance of doubt, FRF does not represent Mubarak. He has his own legal team. Whilst we keep in touch with his lawyers, they pursue their own legal processes entirely independently. Our role has been to publicise the case and support Mubarak’s wife.
We have been working with Nigerian civil society groups, making contact with governments and human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, The United Nations, the European Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, USCIRF, the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, and others.
Our officers have written letters and articles, and attended meetings to publicise this case.
Members of our team speak with Mubarak’s wife several times each week to help her cope with the situation she finds herself in. Her son was six weeks old when his father was arrested and this has been an extremely difficult time for her.
In early August 2020, when we did not know if Mubarak was alive or dead, we drafted a letter on her behalf demanding proof of life. This was sent to international media and to President Buhari, the Nigerian Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. We also sent the letter to every Senator.
Our work continues. If you can help with Mubarak’s case, please get in touch: contacts