Nigeria: Amina Lawal’s victory welcomed, but others threatened

According to her defence lawyer, Amina Lawal was freed from the threat of punishment on the grounds that neither the conviction nor the confession were legally valid. This meant that no offence as such was established.

Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen, said: “It was an outrage that Amina Lawal should ever have faced the unbelievably cruel punishment of death by stoning for any offence - never mind the supposed ‘offence’ of adultery.

“This young mother has suffered anxiety and suffering in her long wait during her appeal, and it is now vital that President Obasanjo acts to remove cruel punishments like stoning, amputation and flogging from all levels of the Nigeria penal code.”

Amnesty International welcomes the stand taken by Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s groups who, have mobilised ahead of today’s ruling and have condemned the way the decisions of some Sharia courts in Nigeria discriminate against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.

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. Basic rights to freedom of expression and association and the right to privacy are still threatened by some parts of Sharia penal legislation in Nigeria.

Kate Allen continued: “The death penalty is the ultimate violation of the right to life. It is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment in all circumstances.”

The Sharia penal legislation, introduced into law in 12 northern Nigerian states over the last three years, includes stoning, flogging and amputation as punishments. These are regarded as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by international human rights standards, and are forbidden by the UN Convention against Torture, which was ratified by Nigeria in June 2001.

Consensual sexual relations outside marriage between adults are not recognisable criminal offences under international human rights standards. The UN’s Human Rights Committee has said that “... it is undisputed that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of ‘privacy’.” Charging and detaining Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights for sexual relations violates their right to free expression and association, freedom from discrimination, and the right to privacy.

Amnesty International calls for the abolition of all discriminatory laws and opposes the criminalisation of consensual sexual activity between adults in private and the imprisonment of anyone solely on that basis.

Background

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, carrying the mandatory punishment of death by stoning. Amina Lawal’s appeal went through several adjournments before this last hearing.

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