The APPG expresses its utmost concern as regards the sentencing of Mubarak Bala, President of the Nigerian Humanist Association, to 24 years in prison, for expressing what were deemed to be blasphemous opinions on Facebook.
The APPG urges the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office to work towards securing Mubarak Bala’s release. We ask that the department renews efforts to promote an end to blasphemy laws where they are used to curb freedom of religion or belief – particularly within the Commonwealth.
The imprisonment of Mubarak Bala reflects a further deterioration in the protection of freedom of religion or belief in Nigeria. The APPG calls on the UK Government to do more in response to such egregious violations of human rights.
This statement was updated on Thursday April 7th
On this International Day of Conscience, we as an APPG recognise the challenges that must be overcome to ensure freedom of conscience for all and its relevance to Freedom of Religion or Belief. We call on government leaders to do more to release prisoners of conscience and put an end to imprisonment on such grounds. In particular, we support the immediate safe release of Mubarak Bala, Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, Leah Sharibu, and Nguyễn Bắc Truyển – about whom more information can be found here.
As an APPG we work to advocate on behalf of prisoners of conscience in different countries and aim to raise awareness of those who are imprisoned for holding different religious or belief views from that of the majority in which they live. We are always grateful to parliamentarians who support this work, and who use their voice to advocate for those who cannot do so.
We must not ignore the overlap between freedom of religion or belief and freedom of conscience. Globally, thousands of people suffer imprisonment for speaking or acting in accord with their conscience. This is a clear violation of human rights and threatens freedom of religion or belief more broadly.
On this International Day of Conscience, we urge more parliamentarians to advocate on behalf of a prisoner of conscience to help raise awareness of their cause, ask for action from officials in this country and abroad, and to safeguard against further violations of human rights, particularly as pertains to freedom of religion or belief. Together, we believe that we can live in a free society where freedom of religion or belief for all is a reality.
The APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief condemns the attack of 4th March, 2022, at which 63 people died and more than 200 were left critically injured after a deadly blast during Friday prayers in a historical Shia Mosque in Peshawar, Northwest, Pakistan. ISIS’ local chapter Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) claimed responsibility for the attack.
The APPG notes with regret that this is one of many examples of violence enacted by IS-K against Shias in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The targeting of the Shia community ranges from attacks on religious gatherings and processions, to killings of those with distinguished careers such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, businessmen, and students. The APPG condemns all such acts and urges for the safe return of those missing Shia who have been forcibly abducted.
The APPG is concerned by this latest large-scale attack, and notes that it coincides with increasing use of blasphemy laws in Pakistan to target the Shia community. In 2020, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that 40 blasphemy cases were registered against members of the Shia community in a single month. This must stop. The APPG urges Pakistani authorities and leaders to abolish blasphemy laws and put an end to such an outdated and discriminatory practice.
Finally, the APPG urges that the Pakistani media does not attempt to erase the Shia identity of the victims, and expresses its support and solidarity with those of the Shia community being attacked.