Nigeria: Amina Lawal’s Death Sentence Quashed but Questions Remain
September 25, 2003
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Amina Lawal’s death sentence quashed at last but questions remain about
discriminatory legislation Amnesty International welcomes the decision today
by the Sharia Court of Appeal of Katsina State, in northern Nigeria to quash
Amina Lawal’s sentence to death by stoning handed down by a Sharia court at
Bakori, in Katsina State on 22 March 2002.
According to her defence lawyer, Amina Lawal was freed on the grounds that
neither the conviction nor the confession were legally valid. Therefore no
offence as such was established.
“Amina Lawal’s case should not have been brought to a court of law in
the first instance. Nobody should ever be made to go through a similar
ordeal,” Amnesty International said.
Amnesty International also welcomes the stand taken by women’s groups who
have mobilised ahead of today’s ruling and who have condemned the
gender-biased attitude in the decisions of some Sharia courts in Nigeria.
While Amina Lawal’s conviction was quashed, an appeal for another court
case involving a death penalty sentence against Fatima Usman and Ahmadu
Ibrahim is still pending with a Sharia Court of Appeal in Minna, Niger State.
This shows that the work in support of women and men exercising their right to
freedom of expression and association, freedom from discrimination and the
right to privacy.
“The death penalty is the ultimate violation of the right to life and
also constitutes a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and is in all
circumstances. Amnesty International calls on the Nigerian government and
civil society to seize this opportunity and address an issue that has caused
unnecessary harm and distress for many Nigerian citizens,” Amnesty
The federal government of Nigeria should take steps to abolish the death
penalty and amend all pieces of legislation which introduce the death penalty
as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments at all levels of the
Nigerian legislation, including the Shari’ah penal legislation.
Amnesty International reminds that punishments such as stoning, flogging or
amputation, included in the new legislation are considered cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment by international human rights standards. These punishments
are in complete contradiction with the Convention against Torture ratified by
the Republic of Nigeria in June 2001.
Consensual sexual relations outside marriage between adults are not
recognizable criminal offences under emerging international human rights
standards. The Human Rights Committee which held that: “... it is undisputed
that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of
‘privacy’.” Charging and detaining women for sexual relations violates
their right to free expression and association, freedom from discrimination,
and the right to privacy.
Amnesty International continues the campaign to call for the abolition of
all discriminatory laws and opposes the criminalization of consensual sexual
activity between adults in private and the imprisonment of anyone solely on
Amina Lawal was found guilty by a Sharia Court in March 2002 after bearing
a child outside marriage. Under new Sharia Penal Legislations in force in
several northern Nigerian states since 1999, this was sufficient for her to be
convicted of the offence of adultery as defined in the new Sharia Penal laws
of Katsina state and summoned to appear before a Sharia tribunal to respond to
this charge which now carries the mandatory punishment of death by stoning.
The request of appeal for Amina Lawal’s court case went through several
adjournments before this last hearing.
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