The UK Government has said it is working to secure the release of the Nigerian humanist Mubarak Bala, who was arrested by Nigerian police in relation to his humanist activism, in contravention of his human rights.
Responding to parliamentary questions by Stephen Doughty, a Shadow Foreign Minister, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson James Duddridge said:
'The UK Government, along with international partners, is monitoring the arrest of Mubarak Bala closely. The Nigerian authorities are yet to confirm the charges against Mr Bala. I raised Mr Bala's case with the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs during our call on 21 May. Our High Commission in Abuja is discussing the case with the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Police.
'The Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Rehman Chishti MP, is also personally looking into Mr Bala's case on an urgent basis, and has raised this matter with international counterparts.
'On 6 May, Mr Chishti spoke with the Chief Executive of Humanists UK and stressed the UK's engagement on this case. The Minister of State responsible for Human Rights, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, also discussed Mr Bala's case with the Chief Executive on 20 May.
'We will continue to stress the importance of a transparent investigation that respects Mr Bala's human rights, the rule of law, and the Nigerian constitutional right to freedom of religion or belief. Defending freedom of religion or belief for all remains a UK policy priority and we will continue to use our voice internationally to protect this human right, championed by Mr Chishti.'
Since Mubarak Bala’s original arrest in April, he has been moved to the state of Kano, and has been unable to access a lawyer or see the charges made against him.
Humanists UK members and supporters have been calling on the UK Government to take action, and Chief Executive Andrew Copson has met with Lord Ahmad, UK Minister for Human Rights and with the Prime Minister’s special envoy Rehman Chishti MP on the case. Humanists International has also worked on similar approaches to the US and Dutch overseas departments, and those of other governments, to try and bring about Mubarak Bala’s release by diplomatic channels.
Nigeria is one of many countries around the world where non-religious people face persecution and one of 13 where they can face death for expressing humanist ideas. At the same time, Nigeria is also a signatory to international human rights instruments and treaties which require the protection of Mr Bala’s humanist beliefs.
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:
‘We remain deeply concerned for Mubarak’s safety and wellbeing but we maintain hope that Nigerian authorities will respond to international outcry by setting him free. I am personally grateful for the UK Government’s interest in this case and the attention they have called to it in their communications with the government of Nigeria.
‘Every day that goes by where Mubarak remains imprisoned and incommunicado serves as a tragic reminder of the persecution which active humanists still face at the hands of too many governments and religious extremists for their beliefs and their work for a better world.’
For further comment or information, please contact Ruth Wareham at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3000 or 0772 511 0860.
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