Vanguard (Nigeria), Aug. 21, 2002
By Kingsley Omonobi
The European Union (EU) plans to lobby Nigeria over Monday’s ruling of a Sharia Appeal Court in Funtua, Katsina State which confirmed the death by stoning sentence earlier passed on 30-year-old Amina Lawal for bearing a child out of wedlock.
The French government is also appealing for clemency for Amina while human rights groups in the United States slammed the court decision.
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Nigerian rights groups also made similar pleas that the convict’s life be spared.
“Our position on the death penalty is clear: we are against it. And we are concerned by this case as we would be by any other cases in any other countries on a similar issue,” said a European Commission spokesman. Applying strict Islamic law, or Sharia, a court in the Northern city of Funtua on Monday threw out an appeal by 30-year-old Amina Lawal and ordered she be taken to a public place, buried up to her neck and put to death by stoning once her eight-month-old daughter is weaned.
The EU’s executive arm said it “is following this very closely and I would imagine that appeals and demarches would take place to raise this issue with the authorities in due course as we have done in the past.” France also said it was “extremely preoccupied” over the ruling. “We urge (Nigerian) authorities to grant clemency,” said a French foreign ministry statement yesterday.
It said France and its EU allies had hailed the acquitment in March of another Nigerian, 35-year-old, Safiya Husseini, whose initial condemnation on the same charges had also sparked widespread concern abroad. “We hope this case will, in time, have the same happy ending as that of Mrs. Husseini,” it said. In Husseini’s case, the defence managed to get her acquitted on a series of technicalities.
At home, rights groups, Campaign for Democracy (CD), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and the National Coalition on Violence Against Women, said Amina “must not die.”
The judgement, according to CD, has “once again exposed Nigeria as a laughing stock to the civilised world,” adding: “It is despicable that in this age and time, the state would be involved in turning a child to a motherless baby in the attempt to organised justice for political reasons.”
The CDHR on its part said: “Human life is sacred and nobody, irrespective of wealth or position should be allowed to dispose the other of it willy-nilly. By this wanton passage of sentence, we are compelled to say once again that Sharia has become a readily available tool in the hands of the oppressors against the oppressed.”
Also reacting, CLO described the verdict as a “further confirmation of the selective application of Sharia against women and other underprivileged social groups like the poor.
“It is as though the rich and powerful men at the helms of affairs in Katsina State and other Sharia-governed states are above the law.”
The National Coalition on Violence Against Women in a separate statement said, it was worried that: “If this pattern of abuse of women’s rights is not nipped in the bud, it will mark the opening of a floodgate of more of such flagrant abuse of the citizen’s rights to life, freedom from torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
“The Federal Government cannot afford to sit on the fence and watch as the rights of some citizens are abused more than others. This is against Chapter 4, section 42 (1) of the 1999 Constitution which prohibits discrimination based on ethnic, group, place of origin, sex, religion, political opinion, whatsoever. The Constitution further prohibits federal or state religion as stipulated in Chapter 1 Section 10.
However, the Federal Government yesterday indicated its intention to appeal the judgement.