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V. Human rights violations under Shari’a in northern Nigeria

Use of the death penalty

The death penalty is provided for in Nigeria not only in the Penal Code and Shari’a legislation in force in northern Nigeria, but also in the Criminal Code, which is in force in the rest of the country.  Since 1999, the federal government has shown little enthusiasm for carrying out executions, but it has not taken steps to remove the death penalty from existing legislation.  Under the common law system, courts have continued to hand down death sentences for offenses such as murder and armed robbery;36 however, none of these have been executed since President Obasanjo came to power in 1999.37 

When northern state governors began introducing their own Shari’a penal codes in 2000, the scope of the death penalty was expanded to cover offenses such as zina (extra-marital sex). 38  In human rights terms, this was one of the most significant changes introduced by the Shari’a legislation.  Previously, zina was an offense under the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria, but was punishable by a prison term or a fine, not by death.  The new Shari’a legislation not only continues to criminalize consensual sexual relations between adults, but imposes the harshest punishment for them. It makes a distinction between the penalties for married and unmarried defendants facing charges of zina.  The charge of  zina carries a sentence of death by stoning if the defendant is married, or has ever been married, even if they have subsequently divorced; in this context, the offense is referred to as adultery.  In the case of unmarried defendants, the offense is referred to as fornication, and the sentence is one hundred lashes. 

Since Shari’a courts started hearing criminal cases in 2000, they have handed down at least ten death sentences.39   Of these, one has been carried out; five have been overturned on appeal; and, at the time of writing, four are still in appeal.  Those sentenced to death include four women and six men.  The offenses for which they have been sentenced to death have included murder, sodomy, and adultery. 

Women have been disproportionately affected in adultery cases, because of different standards of evidence required:  a man facing charges of adultery must have been seen in the act by four independent witnesses before he can be convicted, whereas a woman can be found guilty on the basis of pregnancy alone.40 

Sodomy, defined as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man or woman,”41 is also punishable by death by stoning.  In practice, most of the sodomy cases which have come before the Shari’a courts have not been about consensual, sexual activity between adults but rather allegations of adults sexually abusing children; Human Rights Watch is not aware of anyone sentenced to death for sodomy with an adult.  There are variations in the punishments for sodomy in the different states’ codes.  Some, such as the Kebbi State code, state categorically: “Whoever commits the offence of sodomy shall be sentenced to death by stoning.”42  Others provide alternative punishments.  For example the Zamfara and Kano state codes specify that if the defendant is married, they should be sentenced to death by stoning, but if they are not married, they should be sentenced to flogging.43  The Bauchi State code is less specific: “Whoever commits the offence of sodomy shall be punished with death by stoning (rajm) or any other means decided by the state.”44

The death penalty cases which have attracted the most public attention so far have been the cases of two women sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, Safiya Husseini in Sokoto State, and Amina Lawal in Katsina State.  Both these cases, described below, elicited strong international outrage.  In both cases, the men alleged to have been involved in the adultery were let off for lack of evidence, illustrating the inequality of men and women before the law and the discrimination against women resulting from the different standards of evidence required.

In the High Courts, where all non-Shari’a capital cases are heard, legal representation for defendants is mandatory in death penalty cases.  No such provision exists under the Shari’a system in operation in Nigeria.  In almost all the Shari’a death penalty cases so far, the defendants have been tried in the court of first instance (lower or upper Shari’a court) without a lawyer. Lawyers have only been able to intervene at the appeal stage.  In several cases, they have been successful in obtaining a reversal of the judgment on appeal, but this does not compensate for their absence during the trial of first instance, nor is there any guarantee that in future cases, courts of appeal will always rule in favor of the defendant.   Often judges have not informed the defendants of their right to legal representation, nor have they explained to them clearly the possible consequences of confessing in relation to the likely sentence—a point of critical importance given that the majority of defendants are poor, illiterate, and unfamiliar with the law.

Shari’a courts have continued to hand down death sentences (the last recorded case was in December 2003), but there appears to be a reluctance on the part of state governments to see these sentences carried out. 45   To date, Sani Rodi in Katsina State, whose case is described below, is the only person to have been executed under Shari’a.  Several other sentences have been overturned on appeal, on the grounds of numerous irregularities and errors by the courts of first instance.   In yet other cases, such as that of the couple in Niger State (see below), the appeal hearings and decision of the court of appeal have been repeatedly postponed.  Most observers and lawyers following these cases do not expect the Shari’a state court of appeal to uphold these death sentences.  Some believe that the repeated adjournments are part of a deliberate strategy on the part of the judiciary and the state government to avoid making a decision on these cases.  These prolonged delays cause considerable anxiety and psychological suffering to the defendants.

To date, no death penalty case tried under Shari’a has reached the Federal Court of Appeal.  Nigerian observers, including lawyers, agree that should that happen, it is highly unlikely that the Federal Court of Appeal would uphold the sentence.   A similar favorable outcome would be expected from the Supreme Court. 

In the second half of 2003, the federal government, through the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, launched a public debate on the future of the death penalty in Nigeria, soliciting opinions from across Nigerian society.  In November 2003, it set up a National Study Group on the Death Penalty to consider the arguments for and against retaining the death penalty, to consult with different sectors of the public, and to report back to the government with recommendations.  The group’s members included several human rights activists, academics, and other members of civil society. 46  They finished their deliberations at the end of June 2004 and were expected to finalize their report by September 2004.   A debate on the death penalty was also initiated in the National Assembly. Inevitably, these deliberations have overlapped with the less formal and more impassioned debates about Shari’a.  Some Muslims have already voiced their opposition to what they see as an underhand attempt by the federal government to call into question the existence of Shari’a by opening up the debate on the death penalty overall.  They have stated their resolve to keep Shari’a intact, regardless of the outcome of the debates.47  It seems likely that the controversy around Shari’a and the outcry following sentences of death by stoning were among the factors that prompted the Nigerian government to launch this public debate.  Whatever the reasons, this has been a welcome opportunity to consider in a wider sense the arguments for and against the death penalty, and to encourage reflection on these issues within Nigeria as a whole, well beyond the context of Shari’a.48

Case study: Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim (Niger State)

One of the cases which illustrates virtually the full range of human rights violations described in this report is that of Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim, a young couple from the village of Lambata, Niger State.  Both were sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.  At the time of writing, their case is still in appeal.  The problems illustrated in this case include the criminalization of consensual sexual relations between adults, use of the death penalty, lack of legal representation, denial of information about the charges, court decisions in violation of due process, including changes in the charges and retroactive application of the law, and corruption within the judiciary. 

Fatima Usman, aged twenty-eight, had been married previously and had four children from her former husband, who divorced her a few years before the case began.  Following the divorce, she began a relationship with Ahmadu Ibrahim, a neighbor aged thirty-two, who was also married, with two children.  Both come from poor family backgrounds; Ahmadu Ibrahim earned his living loading firewood.  According to Fatima Usman, Ahmadu Ibrahim promised to marry her, but when she became pregnant, he changed his mind.  Ahmadu Ibrahim claimed that he had planned to marry her, but that his own wife refused49 and that Fatima Usman’s father didn’t want her daughter to marry him because he was too poor.  Fatima Usman’s father then arranged for her to marry another man, who was not aware that she was pregnant from her relationship with Ahmadu Ibrahim.  Once her new husband discovered that she was pregnant, and Fatima Usman herself confirmed that the baby was not his, he dissolved the marriage.  Fatima Usman’s father then put pressure on Ahmadu Ibrahim to accept responsibility for the baby.  Ahmadu Ibrahim paid 5,000 naira (approximately US$ 35) but was not able to pay any more.  Fatima Usman’s father arranged for her to marry a third man, after the baby was born.  Ahmadu Ibrahim said he could not afford to take care of the baby because it was sick.50

Fatima Usman’s father took Ahmadu Ibrahim to court in the hope of forcing him to accept at least financial responsibility for the baby.  Ahmadu Ibrahim and Fatima Usman both appeared in Upper Area Court Gawu Babangida, in Gurara local government, and were charged with adultery, even though the father’s original claim had related to financial support for the child.  Both admitted that they had been involved in a sexual relationship.  After several adjournments, on August 5, 2002, the judge sentenced them to five years’ imprisonment or a 15,000 naira fine each (approximately US$ 107).  They were both sent to prison in Suleja because they were unable to pay the fine.  Neither of them had legal representation during the trial. According to Ahmadu Ibrahim, the judge did not tell them they could have a lawyer and did not explain the charges.51  While Fatima Usman was in prison, the baby fathered by Ahmadu Ibrahim died.

About three weeks later, on August 27, 2002, the same judge changed the sentence on the basis that there was now Shari’a in Niger State, and sentenced both Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim to death by stoning.52 Neither of the defendants were present in the court when the new sentence was announced and they were not directly informed of this development.   Fatima Usman explained how she found out: “We didn’t know the judge had reversed the case to stoning […] We were taken back to the same court.  They didn’t tell me anything.  They just asked me to sign a paper.  I didn’t know what it was.  They didn’t read it to me.  That same day, I knew we were sentenced to stoning […] Some people in the court said: ‘This is the woman who will be stoned to death.’  I overheard it as they were talking among themselves. […]  I felt very scared.  I had not been aware that it was a possibility.”53  Ahmadu Ibrahim was not directly informed either: “I didn’t know what was happening with the case.  I spent eighty-three days in prison.  The day I was bailed, I found out about the change of sentence.  A senior official in the prison told me.  He said I was supposed to be killed but I was now on bail.  I felt very scared and shocked.”54  Lawyers and friends who visited Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim in prison were given strict instructions by prison officials not to tell them that they had been sentenced to death.55  The prison superintendent would only allow them to visit Fatima Usman if they did not mention anything about the death sentence. He insisted that the death sentence was just a rumor, even though it had already been announced in the media.  One of the lawyers who visited her in prison was only allowed to talk to her in the presence of prison officials.56

After the judge had changed the sentence, several lawyers became involved in the case and assisted Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim in preparing an appeal.  The appeal was filed at the Shari’a court of appeal in the state capital Minna on September 17, 2002.  On October 17, 2002, Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim were released on bail. The court of appeal held an initial hearing on June 4, 2003, but the case was repeatedly adjourned, most recently in April 2004. 

The reason why the judge decided to change the sentence, and on what authority he changed the substance of the charges, remains unconfirmed.  This decision did not follow any recognized process; it also violated the principle of non-retroactivity.  According to sources close to the defendants, corruption played a part in the development of the case from the beginning, and the judge who sentenced them may have been bribed and put under pressure.  Fatima Usman’s father, who had originally initiated the court case, had been advised by court officials that he could win a large sum by taking Ahmadu Ibrahim to court, possibly as much as 150,000 naira (approximately US$ 1,700).  He said the court registrar had told him “he would make sure he did what I wanted him to do.”57  After the first court appearance, at least one other court official asked Fatima Usman’s father to give them money so that they could persuade the judge to rule in his favor.  He eventually parted with a total of approximately 16,000 naira (about US$ 115) and had to sell his house, believing he would win substantial damages if he won the case.58  When he failed to win such a sum after the first judgment, Fatima Usman’s father went back to the court officials to complain.  They told him that the case had been tried under the old penal code, whereas it should have been tried under Shari’a.  They reportedly called the judge and told him so.  It was after this that the judge amended the sentence.  Yet the first judgment was already being implemented, and both Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim had started serving their prison sentences.59    

When Human Rights Watch met the judge in August 2003, he refused to talk about any aspect of the case, even to confirm information which was already in the public domain.  He said: “I don’t have much to say as I’ve finished with the case.  It is now in appeal.  All orders and proceedings are with the court of appeal and the lawyers.  I won’t talk about it as I’m no longer responsible for it.  All what I did is documented in the records given to the Shari’a court of appeal.”   He later added:  “We work for the government.  We do what they tell us to do.”60

There were indications that the case had become politicized immediately after the sentence was changed.  Jibril Kallamu, a lawyer who is also special assistant to the Niger state governor, became involved in providing legal counsel to the defendants after the judgment was passed.  Immediately after the death sentence was announced, and after the defendants were granted bail, Jibril Kallamu took Fatima Usman away from her home area to the town of Kontagora, about 200 kilometers away, without her consent or that of her family, and kept her there for several weeks.  She was effectively abducted and was not allowed to go out; nor was she told why she had been taken there.  Her family and friends were not informed of her whereabouts until they were eventually allowed to visit her after two or three weeks.  It would appear that the main reason for whisking her away straight after the death sentence was pronounced was to prevent her from talking to the press, to avoid the negative publicity for the government which had surrounded earlier cases of stoning sentences.  It was not clear whether Jibril Kallamu took this initiative in his personal or official capacity.  Fatima Usman was eventually allowed to return home after she had given birth to a baby conceived with her last husband, but only after repeated pressure from some of the other lawyers following the case.

When Human Rights Watch researchers asked Jibril Kallamu what had happened during this period, he said that Fatima had been taken to a private individual’s house in Kontagora “for her own benefit […]  We gave her fitting accommodation so she could give birth in a comfortable place […]  She was free. She was not incarcerated.  She could go anywhere she wanted.  Her parents always visited her.  The chief of the area is the Suleja Emir.  He made the proposal to keep her there, with the consent of her parents and her own consent.”61

This version of events was contradicted by Fatima Usman’s own account and the testimonies of relatives, friends, and lawyers who had tried to establish her whereabouts. When her parents were eventually allowed to visit her in Kontagora, Fatima Usman cried and said she wanted to come home, indicating that she was not there of her own free will.62 She herself stated:  “The lawyer Kallamu took me to Kontagora and kept me there for two or three months.  I was kept in somebody’s house.  I asked why.  He said there was an order from the higher authorities to keep me there.  He didn’t specify who.  I wasn’t allowed to go out.  My parents insisted on visiting.  Eventually Kallamu brought them there, after two weeks.  No one knew where I was for two weeks.  My father came but because he didn’t have money for transport, he only came twice.  My mother couldn’t come.  The person whose house it was told me they didn’t want me to talk to the press.  But I hadn’t talked to any press before.”63   Fatima Usman’s father confirmed that for two weeks, he didn’t know where she was:  “I went to Kallamu and asked him where he had taken her and that I wanted to see her.  After pressure, he took me to Kontagora and I saw Fatima.  Kallamu didn’t explain anything.  He didn’t say how long she would stay there.  It was only thanks to [the other lawyers] that we could know what was happening. [They] forced him to release my daughter.”64  Other lawyers and individuals concerned for Fatima’s safety also confirmed that for several weeks, her whereabouts remained unknown.65

Human Rights Watch believes there may have been a conflict of interest between Jibril Kallamu’s role as special assistant to the Niger state governor and his role as a defense lawyer for Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim.  When Human Rights Watch researchers met him in August 2003, he said that because of his position in the state government, he was no longer personally handling the case, but that other lawyers in his chambers were.66   However, a nongovernmental human rights organization which has followed the case closely told Human Rights Watch in December 2003 that Jibril Kallamu was still the lawyer dealing with the case.67

In December 2003, Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim were not aware of any further developments in their case and no date had been set for the judgment of the court of appeal.  In March 2004, it was reported that the Shari’a court of appeal had once again postponed its hearing on the case, this time until April 21, 2004. The hearing was then postponed again until May 6, 2004.68  By July 2004, there had been no further progress.  However, in a surprising development, it was reported that the state counsel for Niger State had claimed that the Shari’a court did not have the power to hear the case.69  If this line of argument is pursued, it could have major implications for this and other similar cases.

Death sentences in Bauchi State

At least three men have been sentenced to death by stoning in Bauchi State.  Two have been acquitted and the third case is in appeal at the time of writing.

Yunusa Chiyawa

Yunusa Rafin Chiyawa was the first man to be sentenced to death for adultery. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by stoning by a lower Shari’a court in Ningi, Bauchi State, in June 2002.  His conviction was reportedly based on his confession.  The woman with whom he was accused of having sexual relations was cleared after claiming she had been hypnotized.70  This outcome was unusual compared to some other adultery cases, where typically the women have been found guilty and sentenced while the men have been set free.  Following the trial, Yunusa Chiyawa filed an appeal and withdrew his confession.  Almost a year and a half later, in November 2003, the Upper Shari’a Court ruled that in the light of the withdrawal of his confession, there was insufficient evidence against him, and it overturned the death sentence.71 

Jibrin Babaji

On 23 September 2003, Jibrin Babaji, a man in his early twenties from a poor background, was found guilty of sodomy with three children under the age of eighteen and sentenced to death by stoning by Shari’a Court I, Kobi, Bauchi State.  

Jibrin Babaji confessed to the offense and the judge sentenced him to death.  He also sentenced the children who had allegedly accepted money from Babaji in return for sex to six strokes of the cane.  One of the three boys was flogged straightaway; the other two were not, as they were not present in court.  They have since reportedly appealed the judgment.72

The case against Jibrin Babaji was initiated by relatives of the children; they reported Jibrin Babaji to the hisbah, who then handed him over to the police.  He was not caught in the act.  It is not known whether he confessed to the hisbah or the police, but on the basis of numerous other testimonies of confessions extracted under torture (see below), a conviction on the basis of such a confession alone could not be judged safe. 

In common with other similar cases, Jibrin Babaji did not have legal representation or access to legal advice before or during his trial by the lower Shari’a court.  The trial was completed within a day and, as in other trials in lower Shari’a courts, a single judge convicted him. Through the efforts of a human rights organization, lawyers then intervened on his behalf and filed an appeal at the upper Shari’a court.  An initial hearing took place on December 10, 2003. At the first appeal hearing, a bus full of hisbah arrived at the court premises and were heard making comments such as “he’s confessed: what is there to do?” and “the judgment can’t be changed.”73  A second hearing took place on December 16 and a third on December 31.

On March 9, 2004, the upper Shari’a court acquitted Jibrin Babaji, on the grounds that he had not been granted a fair trial.  Among other procedural irregularities, the court noted that his right to legal defense had not been respected. 

In this case, as in the case of Umar Tori below, Human Rights Watch is concerned not only about the imposition of the death penalty on the defendant and absence of due process during the trial, but about the fact that the children were also punished. Courts should never punish children for being victims of sexual abuse, regardless of whether they received money or other favors from the adult.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria has ratified, states that courts should always take into account the best interests of the child.74   The Shari’a Penal Code of Bauchi State specifies that “a consent is not such a consent as is intended by any section of this Shari’a Penal Code, if the consent is given […] by a person who is under the age of maturity.”75

Umar Tori

The most recent death sentence in Bauchi State is that of Umar Tori, who was found guilty of incest with his stepdaughter, aged about fifteen.  On December 29, 2003, a Shari’a court in Alkalere, Bauchi State, sentenced him to death by stoning.  His stepdaughter, who claimed she had been raped, was sentenced to one hundred lashes for pre-marital sex.   They did not have any legal representation during their trial.  Lawyers have since filed an appeal on their behalf to the upper Shari’a court.

The execution of Sani Yakubu Rodi (Katsina State)

Sani Yakubu Rodi was the first and, to date, the only known person to be executed after being tried by a Shari’a court.  He did not have legal assistance or representation at any stage of his trial and did not appeal against the sentence.  His case is the starkest illustration of the consequences of absence of legal representation and of the vulnerability of defendants to pressure and bad advice. 

Sani Yakubu Rodi, an unemployed man aged about twenty-one from Funtua, Katsina State, was found guilty of the murder of a woman in her thirties and her two children aged four and three.  The victims were stabbed to death at their home on June 8, 2001.  Sani Yakubu Rodi was reportedly caught at the scene of the murder and arrested by the police.  In the initial hearing in the Shari’a court on July 5, 2001, he pleaded not guilty, but in a subsequent hearing on September 4, he changed his plea to guilty.  He reportedly said he would defend himself and did not request a lawyer. On November 5, 2001, he was sentenced to death.  He did not appeal against the sentence.  His execution was authorized by the governor of Katsina State, and he was executed by hanging on January 3, 2002.  Even though he was tried in Katsina State, he was hanged in neighboring Kaduna State prison, as this is the only center equipped to carry out executions in northern Nigeria.

Sources in Katsina reported that members of his family had put pressure on Sani Yakubu Rodi not to appeal, on the basis that a judgment by a Shari’a court was the will of God and should not be challenged.76  A Katsina-based journalist who attended the trial said that the defendant’s grandfather had acted as his spokesperson during parts of the hearing.  When the judge asked whether Sani Yakubu Rodi wished to appeal, his grandfather reportedly said that if the court was satisfied with the evidence, he would not appeal because according to the Qur’an, whoever kills should be killed.  When the same journalist interviewed his grandfather, he accepted that his grandson was guilty; he confirmed that he would not appeal because the death sentence was God’s ruling and to appeal would mean defying God’s wishes.77  It was not clear whether Sani Yakubu Rodi himself had been allowed or able to exercise his own judgment on whether to appeal; nor is it clear why he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty, or on whose advice.

Attahiru Umaru (Kebbi State)

On September 12, 2001, Attahiru Umaru, a man in his thirties, was sentenced to death by stoning for sodomy by Upper Shari’a Court I in Birnin Kebbi, capital of Kebbi State.  He was accused of sexually abusing a seven-year-old boy. Attahiru Umaru confessed to the crime.  He did not have legal representation during the trial.  He has since appealed against the sentence to the Kebbi State Shari’a Court of Appeal.   By September 2003, his appeal was still pending.78

Sarimu Mohammed Baranda (Jigawa State)

In May 2002, a Shari’a court in Dutse, capital of Jigawa State, sentenced Sarimu Mohammed Baranda to death by stoning for raping a nine-year-old girl.  He did not have a lawyer during his trial; he pleaded guilty and even after being sentenced to death, he said he did not want to appeal.  People who attended the trial described him as a poor man, who was very confused and suffering from mental illness.  Eventually, in September 2002, it was reported that members of his family had persuaded him to file an appeal, even though the thirty-day period for appeal had long since elapsed.  A lawyer assisted with the preparation of the appeal and argued that the defendant was insane.79  The Shari’a Court of Appeal in Dutse accepted his appeal and overturned the death sentence in August 2003.

In the period following his sentence and before he was finally persuaded to appeal, there were genuine fears that Sarimu Mohammed Baranda’s death sentence might be carried out.  His own reluctance to appeal, and, according to observers of the trial, his fragile mental health all contributed to these fears.  Several comments made by a state government official to journalists indicated a willingness on the part of the government to allow the defendant to be executed.  Usman Dutse, spokesman for the Jigawa state governor, was quoted as saying: “It’s not the role of the governor to decide, it’s for the Shari’a court.  Once the decision has been made, it’s a divine decision;”80 and “Nobody has faulted the judgment of the court so he will certainly be stoned to death because that is what Shari’a says […]  I cannot say exactly when he will be executed, but this is a Shari’a state and the governor has said nobody will be allowed to violate the laws of the land and go scot free.”81

Safiya Husseini (Sokoto State)

The case of Safiya Husseini was the first to propel Shari’a in Nigeria into the international limelight and provoked a storm of outrage.  It became a test case for others which followed and symbolized the harsh discrimination against women inherent in some of the Shari’a legislation.

Safiya Husseini, a divorced woman in her thirties from a poor background, was found guilty of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning by the Upper Shari’a Court in Gwadabawa, Sokoto State, on October 9, 2001.  She did not have legal representation during her trial.  Yakubu Abubakar, the man with whom she was alleged to have committed the adultery, denied the offense and was acquitted for lack of evidence.  Safiya Husseini was convicted on the basis that her pregnancy constituted evidence of adultery, and on the basis of her confession. The court rejected a suggestion that a DNA test be conducted to establish if Yakubu Abubakar was the father of Safiya Husseini’s child, on the grounds that there was no reference to such tests in Shari’a.82

Following the sentence, several lawyers and nongovernmental organizations stepped in and helped file an appeal, which was heard in October 2001.  On March 25, 2002, the Shari’a State Court of Appeal, composed of four judges, overturned the death sentence.  One of the grounds of appeal, which was accepted by the court of appeal, was that the Shari’a legislation under which she had been sentenced was not yet in force at the time the alleged offense was committed, and could not be applied retroactively.  The alleged offense took place in December 2000, whereas the Shari’a Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code came into force in January 2001.  The court of appeal also conceded that there had been several other areas in which due process has not been observed during the trial, including the failure of the upper Shari’a court judge to explain the nature of the offense clearly to the defendant and to inform her of her right to legal representation; and the fact that the court had convicted her despite the withdrawal of her confession.83 

Amina Lawal (Katsina State)

Amina Lawal’s case was similar in many respects to that of Safiya Husseini and attracted an even higher level of international attention. The trial was marked by numerous irregularities and failure to follow due process.  Although Katsina State adopted a Shari’a Penal Code when Shari’a was introduced in the state in 2002, there was still no Shari’a code of criminal procedure at the time of Amina Lawal’s trial. 

Like Safiya Husseini, Amina Lawal, a divorced woman in her thirties from a poor background, was charged with adultery for having a child out of wedlock.  She was tried by a lower Shari’a court in Bakori, Katsina State, and on March 22, 2002, the judge sentenced her to death by stoning.   As in the case of Safiya Husseini, her pregnancy and her confession were considered sufficient evidence to convict her.  Yahaya Abubakar, the man who was allegedly the father of the baby, denied any involvement and was discharged for lack of evidence.   Amina Lawal did not have legal representation during her trial and was not informed of her right to engage a lawyer; nor was she aware of the consequences of confessing to the offense.  Once the case became widely publicized, several lawyers and nongovernmental organizations intervened on her behalf and helped lodge an appeal with the Upper Shari’a Court in Funtua.   On August 19, 2002, the Upper Shari’a Court upheld the death sentence, to further international public outcry.  When Amina Lawal’s lawyers raised arguments about the infringements of her rights under the Nigerian constitution, the judge said he was not bound by the constitution, only by Shari’a.  However, his judgment even failed to respect the principles of Shari’a, since he ruled that she had no right to withdraw her confession—a right provided for under Shari’a.84 

A further appeal was then filed with the State Shari’a Court of Appeal.  On September 25, 2003, the State Court of Appeal overturned the death sentence on several grounds, including that there had been insufficient evidence to convict Amina Lawal and that she had a right to withdraw her confession.85  Four of the five judges in the court of appeal were in agreement on accepting the grounds for her appeal. One judge dissented and argued that Amina Lawal had been found guilty, illustrating further the risks of allowing only one judge to try such cases, as in the lower and upper Shari’a courts. 

Other adultery cases

There have been a number of other cases of women accused of adultery who, if found guilty, could have faced a death sentence.  For example, in January 2002, Hafsatu Abubakar, aged about eighteen, was tried by the Upper Shari’a Court 2 in Sokoto State after having a baby out of wedlock. Unusually, in this case, the defendant was able to secure the assistance of a lawyer through the nongovernmental organization Baobab, before the court made its final judgment.  The court acquitted her on the basis that the evidence against her was insufficient and contradictory, and that the baby could have been that of her former husband, rather than her lover—partly on the basis of the theory of the “sleeping embryo.”86  Within the Maliki school of thought, there is a provision that a baby conceived within five years of a woman’s marriage can be considered as fathered by the husband, even if the couple are divorced.

In a similar case, Maryam Abubakar Bodinga was tried by Upper Shari’a Court 11 in Sokoto State on charges of adultery in September 2002;  she was also discharged after the court ruled that her baby could have been conceived with her former husband.87 

Amputation sentences

Dozens of people have been sentenced to amputation by Shari’a courts since 2000, the majority charged with theft.  Under the Shari’a penal codes of their respective states, most were sentenced to amputation of the right hand.  All the defendants in cases known to Human Rights Watch are men; almost all are from a poor background.   Amputation sentences have been handed down by Shari’a courts in several states, including Zamfara, Sokoto, Kano, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, and Bauchi. 

According to the information available to Human Rights Watch, there have been more than sixty amputation sentences since 2000.  However, as with other types of sentences passed by Shari’a courts, accurate statistics are unavailable, and cases are often unreported, so the real figure may be higher.  It has also been difficult to confirm the details and progress of each case.  There is no central record of cases and no concerted attempt to record and maintain an overview of cases, either within state governments’ ministries of justice or even among nongovernmental organizations. 

When Human Rights Watch researchers asked state government officials how many amputation sentences had been passed in their state, they were either given inaccurate or incomplete information, or officials were not sufficiently informed to give any details at all.   For example in Kano State, in July 2003, the chief registrar at the Shari’a court of appeal told Human Rights Watch that “to the best of [my] knowledge, no one has been sentenced to amputation in Kano;” he said he had not heard of the case of two men who had been sentenced to amputation just one month before.88  The Solicitor General at the Kano state ministry of justice told Human Rights Watch that there had been no more than five amputation cases.89  However, Human Rights Watch’s research revealed that there had been at least ten amputation sentences in Kano, seven passed under the former governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, and three under governor Ibrahim Shekarau, elected in April 2003.90  The real number may be even higher.  When Human Rights Watch asked the deputy governor whether there had been amputation sentences passed in Kano State, he replied:  “There must be.”  When asked how many there had been, he said that he had not bothered to find out.91

To date, Human Rights Watch has only been able to confirm two cases where amputations have been carried out, both in Zamfara State.  A third amputation was reported to have taken place in Sokoto State in mid-2001, but Human Rights Watch was not able to obtain independent confirmation of the case or the circumstances of the trial.92

Execution of amputation sentences in Zamfara State

Two men have had their hands amputated in Zamfara State.  Buba Kare Garki, or Buba Bello, known as Jangebe, from Jangebe village, Talata Mafara local government, Zamfara State, was tried by a Shari’a court in Talata Mafara and sentenced to amputation in February 2000; he was found guilty of stealing a cow.   He did not have legal representation and did not appeal against the sentence.  After the state governor authorized the punishment, his right hand was amputated in the state hospital at Talata Mafara on March 22, 2000; the state governor’s personal doctor was reportedly among those who carried out the amputation.93  In April 2001, Lawali Inchi Tara had his hand amputated after he was found guilty of stealing bicycles, in Gummi local government.

The two amputations in Zamfara State attracted a high level of publicity, inside and outside Nigeria.  A resident of Gusau, the state capital, told Human Rights Watch:  “It was done dramatically. The governor wanted to prove a point to the world.”94

When Human Rights Watch raised these cases with the Zamfara State Governor, Ahmed Sani, his comments confirmed that these two men’s hands had been sacrificed to his political interests.  He admitted that he had given the orders for these amputations to be carried out for political reasons and that his political reputation depended on the outcome of these cases.  Referring to the case of Jangebe, he told Human Rights Watch:  “The people at that time really wanted Shari’a, therefore we had to implement the sentence.”  He claimed that despite the judge’s wish to impose a more lenient sentence, Jangebe had confessed and “insisted.” He claimed that he had made every effort to provide a lawyer to Jangebe, but he had refused.  “I personally sent several messengers to [him] asking him to appeal. […]  This was a test case for me.  I wanted to exhaust all options. But the man said no, I don’t want to be a bad Muslim.   I sent a lawyer to him for free.  The man refused.  After thirty days, people were counting the days and saying ‘let’s see if the governor is serious.’  The judges had to implement it.”95 

Referring to the case of Lawal Inchi Tara, Ahmed Sani claimed that while in prison, “he [Lawal Inchi Tara] started cutting off his own hand.  He said it’s in God law and he believes in it.”  He told Human Rights Watch that he had ordered the doctors to amputate his hand and gave a long explanation about the political difficulties he was facing at that time:  “I was in a politically difficult position. The ulama [religious scholars] would have mobilized people against me and said this is not proper Shari’a.  They could have unleashed trouble.  It was a political crisis.”96 

It was widely reported that after the amputations, Jangebe and Lawal Inchi Tara were financially and materially rewarded for not appealing and for accepting the judgments.  Both men (who were previously unemployed or had irregular earnings) were given money and jobs by the state government; one was employed by a school, the other by a hospital.  According to residents of Zamfara State, Jangebe was given money, rice, and maize by the state government, after publicly stating that he was happy with Shari’a and welcoming the punishment after his hand was amputated.97   A local journalist told Human Rights Watch that after the negative publicity surrounding the amputations, state government officials had tried to prevent the two men from talking to journalists and other visitors, and had given them instructions not to give interviews without government permission.98

The Zamfara state governor’s position on amputations gradually changed after these two cases.  Faced with a flurry of negative publicity, he refrained from ordering any further amputations to be carried out, although several other people were sentenced to amputation of the right hand under Section 145 of the Shari’a Penal Code.  He told Human Rights Watch:  “There were one or two problems at the start because the system is new. […] If this Shari’a system is assisted, then the contradictions will gradually be resolved, while meeting the aspirations of Muslims.  Under Shari’a, we don’t want to amputate or to stone.”99  The Zamfara state commissioner of justice and attorney general told Human Rights Watch candidly:  “We are aware of the concerns. When Jangebe was amputated […] we received a lot of letters from human rights groups.  We realized the introduction of Shari’a would generate controversy.”100  He added:  “The government has to look at all the angles before implementing it […] We must be very careful and not rush into it.  A confession alone is not enough.  We need witnesses also.  The system is gradually being improved.  We correct mistakes as we go along.”101 

Prolonged detention of defendants sentenced to amputation

In early 2004, there were still twelve people in Zamfara prison who had been sentenced to amputation and did not know whether their sentences would be carried out or not.  These prisoners have become hostages to the new political dilemma facing the state governor: he is unwilling to order their amputations to be carried out, yet is not prepared to order their release.  When Human Rights Watch asked him how their cases would be resolved, he said:  “Those in prison now are a test case:  to show that the atmosphere conducive for amputations is not there.  But if we release them, it will create chaos.”102    He did not express concern for their plight in prolonged detention, nor for the fact that by his own admission, they were being used as tools to prove a political point.  He said a commission of ulama was reviewing these and other cases, but it was not clear how far the commission had progressed or what time frame they had been given for their deliberations.  It seemed that this indefinite “review” of amputation cases may have been a bureaucratic ploy on the part of the governor to prolong the delay and avoid having to take politically difficult decisions.  By July 2004, lawyers had helped filed appeals on behalf of some of those sentenced, but there was still no progress on their cases. 

A similar situation has been replicated in several other states, where state government officials have found themselves torn between the conflicting political imperatives of demonstrating their personal commitment to Shari’a and avoiding the negative publicity which surrounds the implementation of harsh punishments.  Defendants tried by Shari’a courts have become the victims of these political contradictions.   In December 2003, Human Rights Watch interviewed twenty-six prisoners who had been sentenced to amputation but whose sentences had not yet been carried out:  twelve in Zamfara State, six in Kano State, and seven in Kebbi State.  Other organizations and lawyers have reported that there were several prisoners in similar situations in other states, in particular in Sokoto and Katsina.  In Kaduna State too, six men were sentenced to amputation by the Upper Shari’a court, Tudun Wada, in Zaria, in August 2003, and were still in prison one year later.103  In some states, such as Bauchi, it was reported that several people sentenced to amputation had not been detained, but had been waiting for a prolonged period for the governor to make a decision on their cases.104 

Several of the twenty-six prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch had been sentenced more than two years earlier and had been waiting in prison since then, not knowing if or how their cases would be resolved.  Six of them had been sentenced in 2001; nine in 2002; and eleven in 2003.  At the time of writing, at least one of them, Lawali Dan Manga Dadin Duniya, sentenced on April 26, 2001, has been in Zamfara prison for more than three years.  A number of other prisoners were released earlier in the year: for example, three men sentenced to amputation in January and February 2002—Haruna Musa, Aminu Ahmed, and Ali Liman—all detained in Goron Dutse prison, Kano State, were released on bail by the Upper Shari’a Court in Kofar Kudu, Kano State, in May and June 2003.105

The testimonies of the prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch were remarkably consistent and illustrate a range of concerns.  All but one had been charged with theft.  Most were accused of stealing basic household items and provisions, such as clothing, food, a mattress, plates, soap, and cigarettes; others were accused of stealing a sheep, money, a television set and video recorder, two sewing machines, and motorbikes.  All were from poor backgrounds.  Some said they had stolen the items because of poverty.  One said he had stolen because he could not afford to buy medication to treat his asthma.  Two co-defendants said they had stolen two pieces of clothing and seeds from their employer—totaling 5,000 naira (about US$ 35)—because he had not paid them for their work.  Under Shari’a, a person should not be sentenced to amputation if she or he was driven to steal because of poverty or harsh living conditions, or other extenuating circumstances—on the principle that the state has a responsibility to provide for every person’s basic needs.  However, this principle was disregarded by the judges in these cases.  In addition to those accused of theft, one man had been sentenced to amputation after he admitted cutting off the hand of a man he found in his house with his wife. 

The trials of all twenty-six men failed to conform to due process in many respects.  None of the defendants had legal representation in the lower or upper Shari’a courts which sentenced them. The majority of the defendants had had their statements extracted under torture by the police;  in many cases, these confessions were then used as evidence and as the basis for their conviction. Several had been wrongly advised by police officers or prosecution officials that if they pleaded guilty, they would benefit from a lighter sentence, and took this advice on the basis that it was offered in good faith.  Most of them were not even aware that they could be sentenced to amputation if found guilty.   Some had appealed against their sentences; other said they had not because they lacked the means to do so.  Human Rights Watch was later informed that lawyers had filed appeals on their behalf but that the defendants themselves were not aware of this.  All of them were uncertain about their fate, about the procedure in their cases, and about how long they would be expected to remain in prison.  Several of those in Kebbi State, in particular, said they felt abandoned by the outside world.  Some were imprisoned in locations very far from their family.  For example Bello Mohammed Katsina and Mohammed Mansir Katsina were both detained in Birnin Kebbi Prison, Kebbi State, after being sentenced to amputation on November 26, 2002, by the Upper Shari’a court in Kamba, Kebbi State. One year later, neither of their families were even aware of their fate.  Bello Mohammed told Human Rights Watch:  “I’m just sitting here now.  I have no sentence to serve, no date.  My life is just passing.”  Mohammed Mansir said:  “I think they will cut my hand, as there is no means to get out [of prison].  My family is far away.  My days are passing for nothing.  We haven’t appealed because there is nobody to stand for us.”106 

Case example:  Yahaya Kakale (Kebbi State)

The case of Yahaya Kakale in Kebbi State illustrates the range of concerns about trials in Shari’a courts, including a disregard for due process; confessions extracted under torture; corruption and abuse of power by judicial officials; harsh sentencing; absence of legal representation in the court of first instance; and breakdown of communication between the defendant and the lawyer during the appeal process. 

Yahaya Kakale, a twenty-three-year-old trader from Aliero local government, married, with two children, was arrested by soldiers at a roadblock in July 2001.  The soldiers said that they had been told that several items he was carrying (a video, a television and a radio and CD player) were stolen properties. 

Four soldiers started flogging me. They slapped me and kicked me with their boots. They took me to Aliero police station.  The DPO [divisional police officer] said he wouldn’t receive me as I was seriously injured.  I had injuries on my ankles and wrists and head, and I was bleeding from my nose.  The DPO ordered that one soldier and one policeman take me to hospital.  I was given treatment there and was taken back to the police station the same day.

The police locked me in a cell at 2 a.m.  The DPO came in the night and called for me.  The police handcuffed me on my legs and arms.  They put an iron rod and raised me up on the iron, hung me and began to torture me.  They hit me with a baton and pressed the handcuff into my wrists.  It felt as if my hands would fall off.  There were about five policemen, including the DPO.  The DPO was standing there.  He didn’t beat me but he shook the handcuffs on me very hard.  He said: you must tell us you are the one who took the properties.  I felt my life was in danger so I said I was the one who took them […]

I spent two days in the police station.  The IPO [investigating police officer] wrote my statement.  I didn’t know what was written but I signed because he told me to. 

One of the sergeants told me that the chairman of Aliero local government had come to see the DPO and told him I used to steal their properties so they should take me to the Shari’a court and get my hand cut off. 

The IPO said they would take me to the Shari’a court at Jega and that if the judge asks me, I should explain exactly what I told the IPO in my statement so that the judge would sympathize and release me with just a few strokes. 

They took me to the Upper Shari’a court Jega.  There was one judge.  He asked me if I stole the properties.  I said yes.  He asked if I was a Muslim.  I said yes.  He said: the Qur’an says if any Muslim steals, his hand should be cut off.  I said I stole because my parents had died and left nothing for me […]  The judge didn’t ask me any other questions.  He didn’t ask me if I wanted a lawyer.  After passing the sentence, he said: if you are not satisfied, you can appeal.

Before sentencing me, the judge sent me to prison for four weeks.  The first hearing in court lasted only thirty minutes.  The second time, about forty minutes.  When they brought me back to court, the judge sentenced me.  He said: as you have already admitted to the offense, we will sentence you to amputation of the hand. 

When the judge sentenced me, I was worried my hand would be cut and there was no one to help me.  How will I make my life again?  I was not aware that this could be the punishment if I said I was guilty.  I had not heard of this as it had not happened to anyone in my area. 

After the first trial, I appealed.  One of my uncles found a lawyer for me.  The lawyer didn’t visit me but I met him in court.  We went to the Shari’a court of appeal in Birnin Kebbi, in 2002.  There were three judges.  They told me:  you said that the first court did not allow you to speak the facts.  Tell us what really happened.  I told the judge that the soldiers had arrested me at the roadblock and beaten me and taken me to the police.  I told them the police had tortured me and advised me to tell the judge I did it so that they would release me, but I had not known they would sentence me to amputation.  I said I didn’t know the law, which was why I accepted.    My lawyer said I was withdrawing my confession, and that I had only confessed because of the torture.  A government lawyer said:  is it possible under Shari’a for someone to withdraw their confession?  The judge said he would adjourn for further investigation. 

After two weeks, we went back to court.  The government lawyer told my lawyer that the confession could be withdrawn, but the lawyer should show him where it says so in the Qur’an or the Hadith.  My lawyer said they should give him time and he would find the place in the Qur’an or the Hadith.  We went back to court two weeks later.

While I was in prison, some inmates found the place in the Qur’an where it says a forced confession can be withdrawn.  I gave it to my lawyer but he rejected it.  The court started sitting again.  The judge said:  this is the last chance we’re giving your lawyer to bring those verses, but as your lawyer can’t bring them, we will sentence you.  My lawyer didn’t speak.  I raised my hand to say I wanted to speak, to say I had the verses with me.  The judge didn’t allow me to talk.  He was not even listening to me or looking at me. He said the court case had ended because the lawyer couldn’t produce the verses and the court of appeal accepted the judgment of the first court.  The hearing lasted about one hour.

[…] The judge said: we can’t cut your hand until the governor signs, so they will take you back to prison.  He said: if you are not satisfied, you can appeal to the court in Kaduna. 

I haven’t appealed because I don’t have any more money.  My uncle has no money left.  I don’t have a lawyer anymore.  Nothing has happened since then.107 

When Human Rights Watch met Yahaya Kakale, he had been in prison for more than two years and did not know what was likely to happen to him after the court of appeal had confirmed the amputation sentence.  However, according to the National Human Rights Commission, a further appeal had been filed on his behalf to the Federal Court of Appeal in Kaduna.108  This would be the first Shari’a criminal case to reach the level of the Federal Court of Appeal.   However, when Human Rights spoke to Yahaya Kakale, he was not aware of this development.  By July 2004, no date had yet been set for the hearing by the Federal Court of Appeal.109  

Other cases and patterns of abuse

Police torture and forced confessions

One of the most alarming aspects of the amputation cases documented by Human Rights Watch was the systematic torture of defendants by the police.  Strikingly similar patterns were reported across different states.110  Defendants described how police repeatedly beat them, sometimes after handcuffing them, chaining them or hanging them up, until they confessed to the crime of which they were accused or denounced accomplices.  They then made them sign a statement, the content of which, in many cases, was not known to the defendant. 

Police torture and ill-treatment are not directly connected with the Shari’a system in Nigeria.  The police routinely torture suspects and detainees in their custody across the country, regardless of the offense of which they are accused or the legal system under which they are to be charged.  However, when the statements extracted under torture are then used to sentence the defendants to punishments as harsh as amputation, the consequences are especially severe. 

Some of the defendants interviewed by Human Rights Watch complained to the Shari’a court judges that they had been forced to confess by the police; however, the judges did not take this into account.  Human Rights Watch is not aware of any judge ordering an investigation into allegations of police torture in any of these cases.

Abubakar Hamid, a thirty-seven-year-old farmer from Kari Yeldu local government, Kebbi State, was arrested on September 23, 2002, by two policemen who accused him of stealing motorbikes.  At the police station, he was tortured so severely that he lost consciousness:

The police took me to a room and handcuffed me, hung me and beat me.  I fainted.  I didn’t know where I was.  There were six policemen.  They used wood and canes and beat me on my joints, on my knees and arms […] They said I should confess to stealing the machines [motorbikes].  They kept asking where I had taken the properties.  They beat me for more than one hour.  In the end, because of the beating, I accepted that I had stolen the machines.  They stopped beating me after I accepted. […] They took my statement after beating me.  I signed it but I didn’t want to.111

Abubakar Hamid was taken before the Upper Shari’a Court II, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State.  He told the judge that he had been forced to confess by the police, but the judge did not react:

I told the judge I was forced to accept because I was beaten by the police, that I was not with my senses,      that is why I accepted.  My hands were peeling because of the torture and the judge could see it.  The judge said he would sentence me.  He didn’t say anything even though I showed him my hands.  There were no witnesses.  The judge said they should amputate my hand.  He didn’t ask if I wanted a lawyer. 112

Altine Mohammed, aged thirty-five, was arrested on July 26, 2001, in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, accused of trespass and theft.   He was tortured in the police station in Birnin Kebbi:

They hung me up.  They beat me with cane and cable wire on the back.  The scars are still there.  More than five policemen beat me.  They were telling me to confess.  I saw they wanted to kill me, so I accepted […]  After I admitted, they stopped beating me.  I signed the statement after they dropped me down.

They took me to the Upper Shari’a Court, in Birnin Kebbi.  I denied committing the crime.  The judge asked: didn’t you make this statement? If so, why?  I said I had confessed because I saw the police wanted to kill me.  The judge said he was not concerned with the beatings.  He said he found me guilty because I signed the statement.  He said the police would not tell lies.  He sentenced me to amputation of the right hand.113

Abubakar Lawali, a cattle herder aged twenty-eight, and Lawali Na Umma, a furniture-maker aged thirty-five, both from Zurmi local government, Zamfara State, were arrested on March 12 and 13, 2003, respectively, after they were accused of breaking into a shop and stealing provisions and money.  They were taken to the police station at Modomawa, beaten and forced to sign statements.   Abubakar Lawali described what happened:

The police beat me.  They told me I should answer for that crime, otherwise they would accuse me of another crime.  They used a baton and pieces of wood to beat me.  I didn’t accept I had committed the crime.  They took my statement.  They asked me to sign but I can’t recollect if I signed it or not because of the beatings.  They beat me all over, in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  I spent six days in the police station.  They beat me everyday because I would not tell them I did it.114

Lawali Na Umma was also beaten:

The police said we were accused of theft.  I didn’t admit it.  They said to me if you don’t admit, we will do to you what we did to your friend, and they beat me.  Then they said if you don’t accept, we will put another accusation on you.  Four or five policemen beat me with wooden sticks and belts.  They beat me on the head and back.  I spent six days in the police station.  They beat me only on the first day.  After three days, they took my statement and asked me to sign it.  I said I can’t sign because I don’t accept I’m a thief.  They said if you don’t sign, we will make another accusation against you.  Then I thumb-printed it.  I didn’t know what was in the statement.115 

Abubakar Lawali and Lawali Na Umma first appeared before the Shari’a court in Birnin Magaji, then the case was transferred to the Upper Shari’a Court in Kaura Namoda.  In both courts, the two men pleaded not guilty.  No witnesses testified and the items they were accused of stealing were not produced in court.  After a trial which lasted around one hour and thirty minutes, the judge at the Upper Shari’a Court at Kaura Namoda sentenced them both to amputation, on May 15, 2003.116

Sirajo Mohammed, a thirty-year-old farmer from the village of Dogon Kade, in Kasuwar Daji, Zamfara State, was also sentenced to amputation on the basis of a confession extracted under torture.   He was arrested in July 2002, accused of stealing a sheep, and was forced to sign a statement at Tudun Wada police station:

I didn’t admit to the police that I took the sheep.  They beat me.  I didn’t agree to confess.  They wrote the statement and I signed it with my thumbprint.  I didn’t know what I was signing.  In the end I admitted to the police.  They beat the inside of my arms with cable wire.  After signing the statement, they still beat me.117

He pleaded guilty before the Upper Shari’a Court I, Samaru Gusau.  The owner of the sheep was present in court and reportedly said that all he wanted was to have his sheep back.  The judge sentenced Sirajo Mohammed to amputation on April 3, 2003.  Sirajo Mohammed has since appealed the sentence with the help of his father and a lawyer.

Abubakar Mohammed, a twenty-seven-year-old carpenter, was accused of stealing a television and video in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, in September 2001.  He admitted stealing the television but denied stealing the video.  The police told him that because he had stolen the television, he must also have stolen the video.  They beat him with batons and iron bars for about an hour and a half to make him confess.  

The owner of the television came to the police station.  He told the police to stop beating me and to just give him his television back and leave me alone.  He said only the television was stolen from him, not the video.  The police said they would not release me until they had taken me to the Shari’a court.  The IPO [investigating police officer] said I should sign the statement.  I said no because I hadn’t taken the video.  They forced me to sign it.  They hit my hands with an iron baton, so I had to sign it.  The IPO himself hit my hands.118

The next day, on September 6, 2001, he was taken to Upper Shari’a Court I, Birnin Kebbi.  He told the judge that he had been forced into admitting that he had stolen both the television and the video, but that he had only stolen the television.  The judge simply told him that because he had stolen the television, he must also have stolen the video.  There were no witnesses in court, and the owner of the television was not present either.  The same day, the judge sentenced him to amputation of the right hand, after a trial which lasted about fifteen minutes.

Abubakar Abdullahi, a forty-two-year-old driver from Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State, and his friend, Mustapha Ibrahim, were beaten by policemen, including the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) himself, in Birnin Magaji police station in October 2000.  They had been accused of breaking into a house and stealing nine bundles of cloth and a blouse. 

They beat me in the DPO’s office.  Four policemen beat me including the DPO.  They beat me with wood and iron.  I have scars on my arms and legs.  They said: “you must accept the crime.”  I said no.  They took my statement and I signed it.  I didn’t know what I was signing.  I spent four days in the police station.  They beat me everyday. […]  The DPO put a gun to my leg and threatened to shoot.  He said: “if you don’t confess, we won’t take you to court.”  After that, I confessed.  […]  My friend [Mustapha Ibrahim] was also beaten very badly and he confessed.  They broke his wrist.119

Abubakar Abdullahi was sentenced to amputation by the Upper Shari’a court Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State, on February 14, 2002.  He has appealed his sentence. 

Danladi Dahiru, an Islamic student in his twenties from Dambatta, Kano State, was arrested by the police with two sewing-machines which he confessed to stealing.  Two other men who had been involved in the theft ran away.  Danladi Dahiru was detained for three weeks in Dambatta police station:

Every day they hung me and beat me.  They asked me: where are the other two?  They beat me with cable wires and batons.  They put handcuffs on my hands and feet and hung me by a chain on the ceiling.  They put me on a flat bench, tied me with rope, then hung me and pulled me away from the bench.  They did this every morning, at about 7 a.m., for about ten to fifteen minutes.  The beating started when the DPO ordered it.  Sometimes two or three or more policemen beat me.  I used to hear other people crying, also being beaten.  The beating was so bad I told them where they could find the other two.  They arrested them too.  After that, they stopped beating me.  I was vomiting blood and I was bleeding from my ears.

The other two were brought there.  They were not beaten and were released after two days.  I don’t know what they discussed.120

Mohammed Bala, a twenty-three-year-old laborer from Dala local government, Kano State, had a similar experience after he and a former neighbor, twenty-eight-year-old Abubakar Mohammed, were accused of theft.  He was arrested in October 2001 by members of a vigilante group and taken to Dala divisional police station: 

Three policemen beat me with pump pipes and batons.  They asked me:  who else committed this offense?  I denied, but they insisted.  They said:  there’s one of your friends you move around with.  Eventually I told them where my friend could be located and told them his name [Abubakar Mohammed].   I was detained in the police station for ten days.  They beat me from 6 p.m. every day.  The beating stopped after I gave them the name of my friend.  At first, I refused to tell them but the beating continued, so I had to tell them after four days.121 

Abubakar Mohammed was then arrested too, on October 8, 2001.  He was taken to the same police station but put in a different cell from Mohammed Bala. 

I was beaten on the first day.  I have scars on my head and I had to have stitches.  They beat me with a piece of iron and a motor piston.  They said: you are vagabonds and armed robbers and even if you are killed, nothing will happen.  The investigating police officer and three others were all beating me.122 

Mohammed Bala and Abubakar Mohammed both gave statements to the police.  Mohammed Bala was beaten until he confessed to the crime:

I gave a statement to the police.  I said I didn’t commit the crime.  Then the beating started.  After the beating persisted, I accepted I had committed the crime.  It was almost a week before I accepted.  I had to sign a paper.  I was not informed of the content.  They told me they would use the paper in court.123

Abubakar Mohammed was also unaware of the content of the statement he was made to sign:

I gave a statement to the police the day after the arrest.  The police told me: either you admit or you don’t.  They said we have a clue that you collectively committed it.  I denied it.  They wrote, but didn’t question me.  Then they asked me to sign.  I signed, but it was written in English so I didn’t understand it.  They just showed me the bottom of the paper and told me to sign and it would be used in court.  I didn’t know the contents of what I was signing.124

Mohammed Bala and Abubakar Mohammed were both found guilty and sentenced to amputation of the hand by Gwale Shari’a Court on January 24, 2002. 

Abubakar Yusuf, a twenty-seven-year-old photographer from Tsafe local government, Zamfara State, was arrested in December 2002 after taking a video camera, a photo camera and a generator from a friend who owed him money.  He spent twenty-four days at Kwatar Kwashi police station, where he was tortured:

They hung me up and beat me on my hands and feet.  They tied my hands to my feet and put a stick under my knees.  They put handcuffs on my hands and hung me between two shelves.  They put tear-gas in my face.  I was hanging from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  While I was hanging they beat me with wood and a heavy cable.  They beat me all over. 

I spent twenty-four days in the police station.  The whole time I slept with my hands tied behind my back with rope.  I was tied all the time.  I was only untied to eat.125

Abubakar Yusuf was first taken to the Upper Shari’a court in Kwatar Kwashi.  In his statement to the police, he had admitted committing the crime, but he told the judge he had only confessed because of the torture.  When he returned to the court after a three week adjournment, a policeman told him that he would be sentenced to amputation.  In a state of panic, he tried to escape from the court.  The police caught him and beat him so severely that when they took him to the prison, the prison authorities refused to admit him, and he was taken to hospital.    His case was later transferred to the Upper Shari’a Court I in Samaru Gusau, where he was sentenced to amputation on April 9, 2003.  He did not have legal representation.  He has since appealed the sentence, with the help of a lawyer found by his family.  When Human Rights Watch met him in December 2003, he was still waiting for the outcome of the appeal; the last hearing had been on March 5, 2003.   He told Human Rights Watch:  “I don’t support Shari’a because it is not justice.  Sometimes when I think about my case, I want to kill myself.”126

Absence of legal representation and abuse of power by police and prosecution officials

None of the twenty-six prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch had legal representation during their trial in the lower or upper Shari’a court.  They all stated that the judge did not inform them of this right or give them the opportunity to find a lawyer.  Most of the defendants were not even aware that they had the right to legal representation, until after the sentence had been pronounced.   The fact that many people, especially those from a poor background and with little education, are ill-informed about their rights and about the law has been exploited with devastating consequences by police and justice officials.

The few defendants who did know they had the right to legal representation said they lacked the means to hire a lawyer, and relatives or friends who might have assisted them in finding one could not be contacted in time.  For example Hamza Abdullahi, a shoemaker aged twenty-four, convicted with Allassan Ibrahim, a mechanic aged twenty-two, by the Upper Shari’a Court in Dambatta, Kano State, and sentenced to amputation on June 18, 2003, said:  “The judge didn’t ask us to get a lawyer.  We were aware of our right to have one, but we were handicapped and our parents were not aware [of our trial].”127   After they were both sentenced to amputation, Hamza Abdullahi’s father arranged for a lawyer to assist them with their appeal:  “On 5 November 2003 we went to the higher court to appeal.  We saw the lawyer there.  He hadn’t visited us in prison.  The lawyer did the talking.  We were not aware of the appeal […] We never talked to the lawyer privately.  The first time we saw him was in court.  We haven’t seen him since.  Now we are just waiting.”128  The hearing of the court of appeal was adjourned to December 2003.129

The absence of legal representation has meant that defendants are more vulnerable to pressures from judicial officials and others who may be advising them against their best interests.  Police officials, prosecutors and judges have all knowingly provided misleading advice to defendants facing possible amputation sentences.    For example, in the above case from Kano State, the judge in the Upper Shari’a Court in Dambatta told Hamza Abdullahi and Allassan Ibrahim that if they told him the truth,  he would free them.130  The two defendants pleaded guilty, but the judge sentenced to them to amputation. 

Haruna Bayero, a twenty-five-year-old trader from Gombe State, was accused of stealing provisions from a shop in Kano.  He denied stealing the provisions, but was persuaded to confess first by the police, then by the prosecutor at the Shari’a court:

They first locked me in a cell in the police station [at Naibawa outpost].  The police instructed the two people [who had accused me] to give the provisions to the police as evidence.  They brought the items.  I said I didn’t know anything.  I denied I was the person who stole the items.  They took my statement for 30 minutes.  They asked if someone could bail me.  I said no, I am not from here.  The police said they would assist me if I said in my statement that I stole the items.  They said that if I confessed, the judge would convict me with an option of a fine.  Otherwise I would be in prison for a long time without trial.  I thought of my family.  My wife was pregnant.  I thought I would be released, so I agreed.  The police wrote in the statement that I confessed.  I didn’t know about court procedures or sentences.  I was not aware of the possible sentence.  I just looked at the possibility of a fine and release.131

Haruna Bayero was taken to the Shari’a court in Kumbutso.  There,

The prosecutor came and asked me what happened.  I told him the whole story, including how the police had advised me to confess.  The prosecutor said yes, if you confess, it will hasten the judgment.  If you deny, it will take a long time and it could be worse.  He said anyway, your statement to the police will be used in court so there is no point denying it.132

Haruna Bayero pleaded guilty, but told the judge that it was the police who advised him to confess.  “The judge didn’t tell me I could have a lawyer.  I didn’t know about these things.  I was ignorant of the whole thing.  The hearing lasted less than thirty minutes.”

After an adjournment of four weeks, he was taken back to the same court. 

The prosecutor met me in the cell first.  He told me again:  don’t forget what we told you, just confess […] The same judge asked me again if I stole.  I just confessed.  I didn’t explain the whole story again.  The judge didn’t ask if I wanted a lawyer.  There were no witnesses, only the complainant.133

The prosecutor who had advised him to confess also took 5,000 naira from a friend of Haruna Bayero, after promising to arrange for Haruna Bayero to be released on bail.  Haruna Bayero told the judge that money for his bail had been given to the prosecutor; the judge reportedly said he would find out what happened.  However, Haruna Bayero was not granted bail, and the prosecutor did not return his friend’s money.  On April 4, 2002, Haruna Bayero was found guilty by Kumbutso Shari’a Court, Kano State, and sentenced to have his hand amputated.  He appealed his sentence to the Upper Shari’a Court of Kofar Kudu, with the help of a lawyer provided by his family.  At the court of appeal, he told the judge that he had not committed the offense and explained that the police had told him to confess.  The case was adjourned.  When Human Rights Watch met Haruna Bayero in December 2003, he said he had been waiting for around three months and had not received any more news about his case.134  His lawyer said that his appeal was due to be heard on December 23, 2003, and confirmed that Haruna Bayero would withdraw his confession.135  On April 16, 2004, the Upper Shari’a Court accepted the appeal and quashed the amputation sentence on the grounds that the court had not explained the effect of the confession to Haruna Bayero.136  The court ordered a retrial.  Haruna Bayero was to be re-tried by the Kumbutso Shari’a Court, which had sentenced him the first time, but by a different judge.  The court agreed that he could be granted bail, but by September 2004, Haruna Bayero had not yet found anyone to stand bail for him, so was still detained in Kano Central Prison, awaiting the new trial.137

Danladi Dahiru, whose case is described above, also took the advice of the police:  “The police asked me if there was anyone to bail me.  I said no and I don’t have any money.  The police said: if no one can help you, if you go to court and confess, the judge will allow you to go.”138  He was brought before the Upper Shari’a court in Dambatta and pleaded guilty.  On the advice of the police, he also said he had committed the offense alone, even though two other people had been involved (see above).  The judge sentenced him to amputation of the right hand.  “The whole process lasted ten minutes.  I didn’t have a lawyer.  The judge didn’t tell me I could have a lawyer.  After sentencing me, he said I could appeal.  I didn’t know amputation sentences existed.  I just hoped I could go home because that was what the police had said.”139 

Mohammed Bala and Abubakar Mohammed, whose case is described above and who were both tortured by the police, were also advised by the prosecutor to confess:  “The prosecutor told us he would help us, and that if we didn’t argue with the court, he would plead with the judge to give us a short jail term.  We agreed […] The prosecutor told us:  as soon as you appear before the judge, just admit you’re guilty.”140

They both pleaded guilty.  The judge didn’t ask them if they wanted a lawyer, and they didn’t know they were allowed to have one.  Abubakar Mohammed told Human Rights Watch:  “We didn’t know the implications.  We admitted because the prosecutor had reassured us.  We’d never heard of amputations here [in Kano], only in Zamfara, and other Islamic countries.”  Mohammed Bala said:  “I didn’t know either that this existed.  When I heard it, I felt as if I should die.”141

Mohammed Bala’s father appealed on his behalf, but according to Mohammed Bala, he did not have legal representation at the appeal stage either.   The Shari’a court of appeal at Kofar Kudu heard the appeal for Mohammed Bala, but not for Abubakar Mohammed.  Mohammed Bala told the judges that he had only confessed to the offense because the police had tortured him and the prosecutor had advised him that if he didn’t argue with the court, he would get a lighter sentence.  The court of appeal’s decision was adjourned about nine times, because the prosecutor was absent.  Eventually, in December 2002, the judge at the court of appeal ordered for the case to be retried.142  Mohammed Bala was returned to prison.  The case was sent back to the first Shari’a court, where a different judge handled the case.  Mohammed Bala was eventually released on bail in October 2003.  He was subsequently re-arrested on another charge, after a woman accused him of stealing a video nine days after his release.  He claimed that the woman had accused him arbitrarily “because I was in the area, and I was a thief, therefore I must have done it.”  This time, he was tried not by a Shari’a court but by a magistrates’ court, which sentenced him to one year and six months’ imprisonment, or a 5,000 naira fine.143 

For reasons which are not clear, Abubakar Mohammed did not benefit from the outcome of Mohammed Bala’s appeal, even though he was a defendant in the same case;  nor was he retried alongside Mohammed Bala by the first Shari’a court.  According to Mohammed Bala, the prosecutor in the first Shari’a court asked where Abubakar Mohammed was and why he had not appeared, but according to his account, the trial only dealt with his own case.  Abubakar Mohammed remained in prison in December 2003.  He told Human Rights Watch that he had no one to help him as his father had died, and his mother was very old. 

The case of Abubakar Abdullahi, in Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State, also illustrates the abuse of power and corruption by police and prosecution officials.   He and his friend Mustapha Ibrahim were both tortured by the police into confessing to theft (see above).  As in all the other cases, neither of them had legal representation.  When they were first brought before the Shari’a court, they pleaded not guilty.  The hearing was adjourned.

After fifty days […] the prosecutor told me to say that Mustapha Ibrahim had not committed the crime, that if I said this, I would get a shorter prison sentence or just a fine of 1,000 or 1,500 naira.  Otherwise I would be sent to prison and he didn’t know when I would be released.  I agreed.  They took us to court.  Mustapha said he was guilty and that I was too, because the police had said we would get shorter sentences if we said this.  The judge sentenced Mustapha to six months in prison and thirty lashes and sentenced me to have my hand cut.  The trial lasted only thirty minutes.144

Abubakar Abdullahi believed that Mustapha Ibrahim had received a lighter sentence because his family had connections.  Abubakar Abdullahi appealed his sentence in January 2002 and pleaded not guilty to the court of appeal.  The police officer who had been responsible for investigating the case was called as a witness and certain items were shown as exhibits, but according to Abubakar Abdullahi, these were not the items he had been accused of stealing.  In December 2003, he was still waiting for the decision of the court of appeal. 

Children sentenced to amputation

Amputation is an extreme form of cruel punishment which is prohibited in several international conventions.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by Nigeria in 1991, specifically prohibits such punishments for children.145  Article 37 (a) of the CRC states: “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”  The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice also state that “juveniles shall not be subject to corporal punishment.” 

Several boys under the age of eighteen have been sentenced to amputation in northern Nigeria.  Once again, the unavailability of accurate records on sentencing, combined with unreliable estimates of these boys’ ages, mean that it has not been possible to confirm the exact number of such sentences. To date, none of these sentences are known to have been carried out, but some of the boys have remained in detention for prolonged periods. 

In July 2001, Abubakar Aliyu, reported to be between fourteen and seventeen years old, was accused of stealing money and was sentenced to amputation by an upper Shari’a court in Kebbi State.  Two co-defendants believed to be aged sixteen were reportedly sentenced to fifty lashes and eighteen months in jail.  Lawyers filed an appeal on behalf of Abubakar Aliyu, and the court of appeal quashed the amputation sentence on the grounds that he was a minor.  Instead, they sentenced him to flogging and sent him to a children’s remand home for one year to learn vocational skills.   The upper Shari’a court which initially sentenced him had erred in relation to Kebbi State’s own Shari’a legislation.  Section 72 of the Kebbi State Penal Code (Amendment) Law 2000 states: “No act is an offence which is done by (a) a child under seven years; or (b) in cases of hudud, by a child below the age of taklif.”  Taklif is defined in section 50 as “the age of attaining legal and religious responsibilities” but is not defined in terms of a specific age.   Section 96 of the same law states: “when an accused person who has completed his seventh but not completed his eighteenth year of age is convicted by a court of any offence, the court may instead of passing the sentence prescribed under this code, subject the accused to: - (a) confinement in a reformatory home for a period not exceeding one year; or (b) twenty strokes of cane, or with fine or with both.”

Several boys under the age of eighteen were sentenced to amputation and detained in Sokoto prison in 2003. As with the other cases described above, their sentences had not been carried out.  Lawyers and members of nongovernmental organizations who visited Sokoto Prison in 2002 and 2003 estimated that the majority of around ten prisoners in Sokoto sentenced to amputation were under the age of eighteen.  They could not confirm their age but believed that most were aged around fifteen.  Two were reportedly acquitted because of their age.146  Amnesty International researchers who visited Sokoto Prison in March 2003 interviewed four prisoners who were under the age of eighteen at the time of their alleged offense, and who were sentenced to amputation.  At least two of them had been beaten by the police and forced to sign a statement which they could not understand.147

At least one boy under eighteen has also been sentenced to amputation in Katsina State.  In a case involving the theft of a bull, a boy aged fifteen and an adult aged nineteen were tried by the lower Shari’a court in Maska, Katsina State, in 2002 and sentenced to amputation.  A lawyer came across them by chance in Katsina Prison, and filed an appeal on their behalf.  Even though the thirty-day appeal period had lapsed, the upper Shari’a court in Funtua agreed to register the appeal.148


Flogging has been the most commonly applied of all the corporal punishments provided for by the Shari’a legislation in Nigeria’s northern states.   A variety of offenses are punishable by flogging under the Shari’a penal codes; those most frequently punished in practice are consumption of alcohol, theft, and fornication. The number of strokes of the cane usually ranges from forty to one hundred, depending on the offense.

Floggings are carried out in several states, although the rate has gradually decreased in recent months.  As with other types of sentences, no overall statistics are available and cases of flogging are so common that they are often not reported at all.  In August 2003, a lawyer in Gusau told Human Rights Watch that there were floggings everyday in Zamfara State,149 while a local journalist in Zamfara State said that floggings sometimes took place twenty times a week.150  A woman in Birnin Kebbi, capital of Kebbi State, said that when Shari’a was first introduced into Kebbi State, there were floggings on average once a week; she estimated that by the end of 2003, the number had decreased to around one every few months.151  However, the registrar of a Shari’a court in Birnin Kebbi said that floggings were still common and estimated that they took place at least once a month.152   The chairman of the Liquor Licensing Board in Niger State (a body created by the Niger State government in April 2000) told Human Rights Watch that in 2000 and early 2001, there used to be an average of ten to fifteen floggings a month in Niger State ―sometimes rising to twenty―and that floggings took place in every local government in the state.  However, the number had subsequently decreased; by mid-2003, there were one or two a month.  He mentioned one flogging in Mokwa local government in June 2003, two in Lapai local government in July 2003, and “many cases” in Rafi local government in 2002.153   A lawyer in Kano said that at the end of 2003, floggings were still quite common in Kano State; he estimated that there were an average of about three cases a month, most of them cases of accusations of alcohol consumption.154

Defendants’ rights have been systematically disregarded in cases of floggings.  Typically the suspect is arrested and tried within a matter of days, and, if found guilty, sentenced to a number of lashes (depending on the offense allegedly committed), then flogged immediately, as soon as the trial is over.  The flogging is carried out in public, usually outside the court or in a nearby public place, with a crowd watching.  The flogging is administered by a court official such as a court messenger or clerk, using a thin leather whip or cane; in some states, such as Kebbi, policemen are sometimes called upon to carry out the flogging.  The victim is usually made to lie down on a bench; in some cases, they are made to take their shirt off.  According to the official guidance, the person administering the flogging holds his arm close to his side and does not raise his hand high, so that the flogging is not very painful.155  In the majority of cases, the instant administration of the punishment means that the defendant’s right to appeal, although existing in theory, is systematically ignored. 

For example, on July 21, 2003, a civil servant in his forties, Garba Aliyu, was arrested by the hisbah who accused him of drinking alcohol.  A lawyer in Gusau described the summary nature of the trial:  “He admitted drinking previously, but denied drinking at the specific time of his arrest.  On that admission, the judge said: ‘go and flog him eighty times.’  He was flogged.  He had no opportunity to appeal and wasn’t told he could appeal.  He had no legal representation.”156

Few of the people interviewed by Human Rights Watch—including eye-witnesses of floggings, court officials, journalists and even some lawyers—appeared to take the issue of flogging seriously.   They described the punishment as intended to inflict symbolic humiliation or disgrace, rather than pain, stressing that “they do not hit them hard.” In a typical comment, the attorney general of Zamfara State told Human Rights Watch:  “The flogging doesn’t inflict injury, but sets an example to the population about unsocial behavior.  It is intended to inflict shame.”157  A lawyer in Kaduna said:  “Floggings are not a punishment as such but are intended to humiliate the offender.  They put a stick under their arm.  They call people to witness and to humiliate.  It is not really to punish.”158  Some justified or accepted it on the basis that it existed even before Shari’a was extended to cover criminal law in 2000.  Even some human rights organizations have not been especially active on the issue of flogging and have not treated it as a priority in their work.

The public aspect of the punishment is central to its perceived “effectiveness,”as illustrated by this account from a woman in Kebbi State:  “They flog people in public in the marketplace, outside the courtrooms or elsewhere, but only if there are people to watch […]  State television announce the case and they show it live.  Journalists are filming.”159  The public spectacle of flogging does not appear to elicit much reaction among Nigerians.  A man in Dambatta local government, Kano State, described a flogging which took place there on June 2, 2003.  The defendant, Mudansiru Abdulmumini, a farmer in his thirties, had been charged with dealing in intoxicants under Section 137 of the Penal Code and tried by the Upper Shari’a Court, Dambatta. “He confessed.  He didn’t have a lawyer.  The police arrested him with six tins of solution.  The court punished him with twenty lashes. […]  The court messenger lashed him outside the court. […] The victim was shouting: ‘please stop!’.  They flogged him on the back and buttocks with his shirt on.  There were more than twenty eye-witnesses, men and women, saying: ‘Allahu Akbar!’ [God is great]. Then everyone just goes away.”160 

The fact that the vast majority of victims of flogging do not have legal representation and are often not able to exercise their right to appeal attracts little concern or indignation, with the exception of a few protests from lawyers.  It would appear that flogging is seen by some Nigerians as a lesser punishment, and one which has the comparative advantage of being administered quickly and without lasting consequences.  Several people explained that by exercising the right to appeal against a flogging sentence, the defendant would risk facing a lengthy period in detention while the appeal was being considered, and that many defendants opted not to appeal and to face the flogging simply in order to avoid imprisonment.  This position is easy to understand in view of the fact that both under Shari’a and the rest of the justice system in Nigeria, accused persons can be detained for several years awaiting trial or awaiting the outcome of their appeal.161  

Many people have been flogged on suspicion of drinking alcohol, which is forbidden in most of northern Nigeria;  laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol were in existence even before the introduction of Shari’a, and have since been tightened by some states, in some cases extending to a complete ban.162 Although it is widely known that some Muslims drink alcohol, public punishment for this offense is considered very humiliating.  A resident of Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, told Human Rights Watch about a young man in his twenties, who was flogged in 2003 after he was arrested by hisbah in the street; he was allegedly drunk at the time.  They reportedly took him straight to the Shari’a court, not to the police station; there, he was flogged, and released with a warning not to drink beer again.  Friends and colleagues said that he was so ashamed that he would not talk about it to anyone.163 

Some of those flogged have been under the age of eighteen.  One of the earliest and most publicized cases was that of Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, a teenage girl who had become pregnant and was accused of pre-marital sex.  While it was widely reported by the media that Bariya Magazu was seventeen years old, local sources, including the women’s rights organization Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, believed that she was no more than thirteen or fourteen.  In September 2000, the Shari’a Court in Tsafe found her guilty of zina (fornication) and sentenced her to one hundred lashes.  She was also accused of bringing false charges against three men who she claimed had raped her, for which she was sentenced to an additional eighty lashes. The three men were arrested, but denied the charge and were released after three days.  With the help of lawyers hired by Baobab for Women’s Rights, Bariya Magazu appealed the conviction.  The lawyers advanced several grounds for appeal, including that the defendant was under eighteen, and therefore could not have consented to the act;164 nor, if found guilty, should she be given the same punishment as an adult.  Eventually, the sentence of eighty lashes for bringing false charges against the men was dropped, but Bariya Magazu was flogged one hundred times on January 19, 2001, even though her appeal was still pending.  She was only given one day’s notice that she would be flogged on that date; initially, the flogging was to take place one week later, forty days after the birth of her baby.165 

More recently, on July 31, 2003, a teenage girl, Zuwayra Shinkafi, and her boyfriend, Sani Yahaya, were both flogged in Gusau, Zamfara State, after being found guilty of extra-marital sex.  Their arrest, trial, and punishment all took place within two or three days.  According to some sources, the girl was aged about sixteen, but other eye-witnesses estimated that she was at most thirteen.  The boy was estimated to be about eighteen.  A local source reported that members of the local monitoring group (Zamfara State’s equivalent of the hisbah) discovered that Zuwayra, who was married and lived in the village of Shinkafi, was having an extra-marital relationship with Sani Yahaya, who lived in the state capital Gusau.  They arrested both of them in Gusau and took them to the police.  They were tried in Upper Shari’a Court II in Gusau.  Zuwayra Shinkafi was given thirty lashes; Sani Yahaya was given eighty lashes and sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment.166  The court registrar said that Zuwayra Shinkafi would normally also have been sentenced to eighty lashes, but because she was “not considered mature,” she received a lesser sentence.167 

The sentences in both this case and that of Bariya Magazu go against the Zamfara State Shari’a Penal Code, which states that in cases where defendants are aged between seven and eighteen, “the court may instead of passing the sentence prescribed under this code, subject the accused to: (a) confinement in a reformatory home for a period not exceeding one year; or (b) twenty strokes of the cane, or with fine or with both.”168

Unlike the victims of other forms of punishment under Shari’a—most of whom have been poor, from predominantly rural backgrounds and with little education—the victims of floggings have included some high-profile individuals.  For example, a Shari’a court judge in Zamfara State was accused of drinking alcohol and publicly flogged in January 2002.  He was reportedly arrested by members of the monitoring group on January 21.  The following day, on January 22, 2002, he was tried, convicted, and flogged eighty times in the marketplace at Kaura Namoda.  Unusually in this case, the flogging was administered by his father-in-law, who was also a judge. 

Discrimination against women

Women have been victims of discrimination since Shari’a was extended to criminal law in northern Nigeria, both in terms of certain provisions in the new Shari’a legislation and other practices and regulations enforced outside the framework of the law.169  While some of these practices existed prior to the introduction of the legislation in 2000, and have been considered a part of daily social life in northern Nigeria for many years, the political climate since 2000 has encouraged discriminatory behavior towards women by providing a new, official framework for it, and human rights violations against women have increased.  As stated by a Nigerian academic and activist in Kaduna, “although it is difficult separating the Hausa and Islam patriarchal structure, the reintroduction or politicization of Shari’ah in Northern Nigeria has contributed in reinforcing traditional, religious and cultural prejudices against women.”170

The section below describes different contexts in which women in northern Nigeria have faced discrimination, including provisions in the Shari’a legislation (particularly in zina cases), the absence of women in the judiciary, especially among judges and prosecutors, and restrictions and harassment in daily life, affecting, in particular, freedom of movement and association, and mode of dress.

Discrimination against women is institutionalized in parts of the Shari’a criminal legislation in force in northern Nigeria.  There are two main provisions in the law which discriminate against women.   The first is the inequality in the weight of testimony.  According to the Shari’a penal codes, a woman’s testimony as evidence in a trial is worth half that of a man, or the testimony of one male witness equals that of two female witnesses.  Human Rights Watch is not yet aware of any trial where this issue has arisen, or where the inequality in the weight of testimony has affected the outcome of a trial.  This may be in part because many trials in Shari’a courts are conducted without witness testimony, and where witnesses have testified, they have most often been men.

The second aspect which discriminates against women is the inequality in standards of evidence in cases of zina (extra-marital sex, which is referred to as adultery if the person is married, or fornication, if she is not).  Women have been adversely affected in these cases.  Under the Shari’a codes in force in Nigeria, based on the Maliki school of thought, pregnancy is considered sufficient evidence to convict a woman of adultery. For the male defendant, on the other hand, the Shari’a penal code requires that the act of adultery must have been witnessed by four independent individuals before the man can be convicted—a standard of proof which is usually impossible to obtain, and has not been obtained in any of the cases which have arisen so far.   This glaring discrimination in standards of evidence has had serious consequences for women charged with zina.   It has resulted in situations such as those of Bariya Magazu, Safiya Husseini and Amina Lawal, where the women were found guilty and sentenced to death, or flogging, on the basis of their pregnancy, whereas the men named in the cases were acquitted for lack of evidence.171   There have also been cases when men have been convicted for adultery, but these convictions have usually been based on the man’s own confession.

Even provisions of Shari’a within the Maliki school have been applied selectively.  For example, judges have considered a woman’s pregnancy as sufficient evidence of zina, yet have ignored the provision of the “sleeping embryo,” which exists within the same school of thought and is more favorable to female defendants.  In the case of both Amina Lawal and Safiya Husseini, the option of accepting that the baby could have been fathered by the woman’ husband was disregarded by the judges who initially sentenced the women.  In the case of Amina Lawal, however, the Katsina State Shari’a Court of Appeal accepted the argument of the “sleeping embryo” as one of the grounds for concluding that Amina’s baby could have been conceived with her husband.

The plight of women before the Shari’a courts, especially in cases of adultery, has been aggravated by the absence of women in the judiciary.   There are no female judges in the Shari’a courts, as the Maliki school of thought prohibits women from becoming judges.172  The vast majority of defense lawyers are also men. One of the few female lawyers to have acted on behalf of women sentenced by Shari’a courts was initially prevented from speaking in court by the Shari’a court judge, on the basis that female defense lawyers could only speak through the male counsels on their teams.

Judges have also failed to investigate allegations of rape made by female defendants in adultery cases and have ended up punishing some women who claimed to have been victims of rape.  For example, in the case of Bariya Magazu, the teenage girl accused of extra-marital sex who accused three men of raping her, the judge not only failed to order an investigation into her claims but charged her with falsely accusing the three men, who had denied having sexual relations with her.  In the Shari’a penal codes, rape is a crime punishable by death, if the offender is married, or by flogging, if the offender is unmarried.   However, the inequality in the standards of evidence required for men and for women means that, in practice, it is more likely that a woman who alleges she has been raped will be found guilty of adultery, or possibly false accusation, than the man charged with rape.

In addition to the discrimination they face in criminal cases before Shari’a courts, women have faced other forms of discrimination in their day-to-day life, affecting, among other things, their freedom of movement and freedom of association.  Since the advent of Shari’a, some state governments have introduced measures to prevent men and women from being seen together publicly.  These measures, most of which are not codified into laws, have been applied most stringently in Zamfara State, where the state government prohibited women and men from traveling together in public transport, such as buses, taxis, and motorbikes commonly used as taxis, known as kabu-kabu.  Especially in the period immediately after Shari’a was introduced, the hisbah frequently stopped taxis which carried male and female passengers together and made the women disembark.  There were cases, during this early period, where kabu-kabu drivers were charged and flogged for carrying female passengers.173  The government introduced and provided separate vehicles for men and women.  On larger buses, men and women were made to sit separately, with men at the front and women at the back.  This was one of several requirements codified in a law passed in Zamfara State on May 31, 2001, and violations of this requirement were punishable by “reprimand, exhortation or warning; or fine not exceeding N500:00 or both.”174  However, residents of Zamfara State reported that restrictions on long-distance buses applied only in the state capital Gusau and in some of the villages, and that men and women could sit together when traveling outside a radius of about 10 kilometers of these locations. 

The restrictions on travel by kabu-kabu―the most common and sometimes the only form of transport in many areas―was especially harsh on women, some of whom had to walk long distances because the drivers (who are always male) refused to carry them or simply drove past them.   Car drivers who assisted women in this situation by offering them a lift were also sometimes stopped and harassed by the hisbah.  In 2001, Christians formed their own taxi drivers’ association, partly in protest at these restrictions and partly in a bid to make up for lost earnings.  Christian drivers carry a special identity card indicating that they are members of the Association of Christian Motorcycle Operators, and accept female passengers. 

Women were also under increasing pressure to dress in a way which conformed to the notion of what was considered appropriate according to Islam.  However, in most states, the dress code was not clearly defined, and was interpreted differently by different individuals, even among the religious and political establishment.  As with other issues, such as “immoral gatherings,” there was considerable confusion arising from attempts by the hisbah to enforce some kind of dress code in the absence of a legally prescribed code.   A hisbah leader in Kaduna told Human Rights Watch that women should be “completely covered except the face,” but was not able to specify exactly what this meant, and admitted that there could be different interpretations.175 A hisbah leader in Kano said that the hisbah played an “advisory role” in relation to dress, but because there was no law prescribing dress, women wearing different styles of dress could not legally be apprehended.176  Yet there had been several cases in Kano when hisbah had stopped women in connection with their style of dress. 

Most Muslim women in northern Nigeria traditionally covered their heads, even before Shari’a was extended in 2000, so many of them have not experienced a significant difference in this respect.  However, some said that their mode of dress was supervised more closely by the hisbah since the extension of Shari’a, and that the issue was now more publicized   In Kaduna State, the hisbah organized lectures for women on how to dress, but did not approach them individually if they judged that they failed to comply.  In Kano, the hisbah sometimes stopped women who were not “properly dressed,” took them to their office, gave them a lecture, then gave them a hijab (veil).  In some areas, public pressure on women to cover themselves completely intensified.  For example, Human Rights Watch researchers visiting the Kongo area of Zaria, in Kaduna State, in July 2003 noticed the following graffiti on a wall:  “Watch your mode of dress – Shari’a” and “Dress properly, or else. Shari’a.” 

Most of the attempts to enforce a dress code for women have been undertaken by the hisbah, rather than the state governments.  The exception is Zamfara State, where a law was passed in 2001 prohibiting “indecent dressing in public” as well “indecent hair cuts” for both men and women.177  The same law banned “the association in public of two or more persons of opposite sexes to engage in discussions or acts of immoral or indecent nature and in circumstances not approved by the tradition and culture of the people of the State.”178  Regarding women, the law specifies: “Every female of Islamic faith shall put on dress to cover her entire body except for her feet, hand and face in the public or while attending the office both within or outside the State.”179  A woman in Gusau told Human Rights Watch that a circular had been sent to all female staff in government offices in Zamfara State instructing them to wear the hijab; however, women who did not wear it were not harassed.180 

One of the most serious cases where women were directly victimized for not conforming to a particular dress code occurred in Bauchi State.  In February 2002, twenty-one Christian nurses were suspended from their jobs at the Federal Medical Centre in Azare for refusing to wear a uniform based on Islamic dress, which the hospital director had introduced to replace the standard nurses’ uniforms; the hospital stopped paying their salaries.  Eventually, ten of them agreed to conform to the dress code simply in order to be able to resume work.  However, the remaining eleven did not, and were fired on April 24, 2002.181   The decision to enforce the dress code appears to have been a personal initiative by the hospital director―a surprising move, since the medical centre is a federal and not a state institution.  Following representations by nurses’ associations, Christian associations and nongovernmental organizations, the federal government eventually ordered the hospital director to reinstate the nurses.  The hospital director refused and was dismissed.  However, by July 2003, the eleven nurses had still not been reinstated, nor had they received compensation. 182 A court case initiated by the nurses in June 2002 was eventually dismissed by the Federal High Court in Jos on March 24, 2004 on the basis that it lacked merit, and on a number of technical grounds.183  Finally, in August 2004, it was reported that the government had reinstated the nurses, at least verbally, and deployed them back to their home states.184

By 2003, measures limiting women’s freedom of movement and mode of dress were being enforced less stringently.  Harassment of women had become rarer; the hisbah often turned a blind eye to men and women traveling together and rarely stopped women for not wearing “appropriate” dress.  However, in December 2003, some Muslim motorbike taxi drivers in Gusau, capital of Zamfara State, were still refusing to carry female passengers; it was not clear whether this was because they feared punitive action by the hisbah, or because they themselves believed they should not be carrying female passengers.

[36]  Amnesty International recorded at least thirty-three death sentences passed since 1999, of which at least twenty-two were handed down under the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria.  See Amnesty International report “Nigeria: the death penalty and women under the Nigerian penal systems,” February 2004.  The Nigerian human rights organization Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) reported that according to law reports and court judgments, 47 death sentences had been confirmed by the Supreme Court between 2001 and 2003.  See “Who has the right to kill – a report on death penalty in Nigeria, 2001-2003,” LEDAP (Lagos).

[37] The last execution under the Criminal Code recorded by Amnesty International was in March 1999.

[38] Zina is defined as follows in the Zamfara State Shari’a Penal Code:  “Whoever, being a man or a woman fully responsible, has sexual intercourse through the genital of a person over whom he has no sexual rights and in circumstances in which no doubt exists as to the illegality of the act, is guilty of the offence of zina.”  Zamfara State Shari’a Penal Code Law 2000, Section 126.

[39]  This is the number of death sentences recorded by Human Rights Watch on the basis of its own research and cases reported by Nigerian lawyers and nongovernmental organizations.  Given the absence of reliable official statistics and the poor level of monitoring of cases across the northern states, it is possible that there have been other cases.

[40]  Human Rights Watch is not aware of any case in Nigeria where a man has been found guilty of adultery on the basis of the testimony of four independent witnesses.  In the cases of Ahmadu Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death for adultery in Niger State, and Yunusa Chiyawa, who was sentenced to death for adultery in Bauchi State, the men’s own confessions were the basis for their conviction.

[41]  Section 130 of the Zamfara State Shari’ah Penal Code Law, 2000.  A similar definition is included in other states’ penal codes.

[42]  Section 132 of the Kebbi State Penal Code (Amendment) Law 2000.

[43]  Section 134 of the Zamfara State Shari’ah Penal Code Law, 2000, and section 129 of the Kano State Shari’a Penal Code Law 2000.

[44]  Section 134 of the Bauchi State Shari’ah Penal Code Law 2001.

[45]  While state governors dictate, to a large extent, the direction in which Shari’a evolves in their state, it is not always possible to establish a direct link between the views of state governors and the number of death sentences handed down by Shari’a courts in their state.  For example, Shari’a courts in Bauchi State have sentenced three people to death by stoning, yet the Bauchi State governor is not known to have a hardline position and has been criticized for not “caring enough about Shari’a.”  Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, December 13, 2003.

[46]  See for example “Government raises panel to review death penalty,” The Guardian (Lagos), November 5, 2003.

[47]  See for example “Don’t stop death penalty, FG urged,” ThisDay (Lagos), September 5, 2003, and “Nigeria: Muslim leader warns against moves to abolish death penalty,” The Guardian, September 12, 2003.

[48]  Some Nigerian human rights organizations have intensified their campaigns against the death penalty in Nigeria.  See “Handbook on death penalty (towards a moratorium in Nigeria),” Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS), Lagos, June 2003, and “Who has the right to kill – a report on death penalty in Nigeria 2001-2003” (LEDAP).

[49]  In parts of Nigeria, it is common for men to have several wives.  A Muslim man is allowed to marry a maximum of four wives. 

[50]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Lambata, August 6, 2003.

[51]  Human Rights Watch interview, Lambata, August 6, 2003.

[52]  Niger State has not introduced a separate Shari’a penal code or code of criminal procedure, but amended the existing Penal Code to make it conform to Shari’a.  In November 2002, the Shari’a Administration Law changed the status of area courts to Shari’a courts.  

[53]  Human Rights Watch interview, Lambata, August 6, 2003.

[54]  Human Rights Watch interview, Lambata, August 6, 2003.

[55]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Lambata, August 6, 2003, and Abuja, November 15, 2002.

[56]  Human Rights Watch interview, Abuja, November 15, 2002.

[57]  Human Rights Watch interview, Lambata, August 6, 2003.

[58]  Ibid.

[59]  Human Rights Watch interview, Minna, August 7, 2003.

[60]  Human Rights Watch interview, Upper Shari’a court New Gawu, August 6, 2003.

[61]  Human Rights Watch interview, Suleja, August 7, 2003.

[62]  Human Rights Watch interview, Abuja, November 15, 2002.

[63]  Human Rights Watch interview, Lambata, August 6, 2003.

[64]  Human Rights Watch interview, Lambata, August 6, 2003.

[65]  Human Rights Watch interview, Abuja, November 15, 2002.

[66]  Human Rights Watch interview, Suleja, August 7, 2003.

[67]  Human Rights Watch interview, Lagos, December 9, 2003.

[68]  See “Appeal of Nigerian stoning case couple postponed,” Agence France-Presse, March 24, 2004, and “Appeal of Nigerian stoning case couple postponed again, Agence France-Presse, April 21, 2004.

[69]  Human Rights Watch interview, Abuja, June 30, 2004.

[70]  Section 75 of the Bauchi State Shari’ah Penal Code Law, 2001, states: “Nothing is an offence, which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, or sleep, is incapable of knowing the nature of the consequences of the act; or he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to the law.”

[71]  See for example “Shari’a court lifts stoning sentence on Nigerian ‘adulterer’,” Agence France-Presse, November 14, 2003.

[72]  Human Rights Watch interview, Lagos, July 7, 2004.

[73]  Ibid.

[74]  Article 3 (1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

[75]  Section 39 of the Bauchi State Shari’ah Penal Code Law, 2001.  The age of maturity is not defined. Some other states’ Shari’a penal codes contain a slightly different wording.  For example, the Shari’a penal code of Zamfara State specifies that the consent of a “a person who is under eighteen years of age or has not attained puberty” is not considered as consent.  Section 38 (c) of Zamfara State Shariah Penal Code Law, 2000.

[76]  Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with sources in Kaduna and Katsina, January 2002.

[77]  Human Rights Watch telephone interview, January 7, 2002.

[78]  Human Rights Watch has not been able to obtain more recent information on this case.

[79]  Most of the state Shari’a penal codes contain a section stating that an act committed by a person who is insane or involuntarily intoxicated should not be considered an offense.

[80]  See “Second Nigerian stoning case stirs Shari’a row,” Agence France-Presse, August 27, 2002.

[81]  See “Nigerian to die by stoning for raping girl of 9,” Reuters, August 27, 2002.

[82]  See “Safiya’s parents plead for their daughter,” The Guardian, December 16, 2001.

[83]  For details of the judgement, see “Safiyyatu’s case,” Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL), 2003.  For further background on the case,  see Chapter 3 of “Baobab for Women’s Human Rights and Shari’a Implementation in Nigeria: The journey so far,” Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, Lagos, 2003; and “At last, court frees Safiya,” The Punch, March 26, 2003.

[84]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Abuja, August 7 and 8, 2003.

[85]  For details of some of the other grounds for appeal, see Chapter 3 of “Baobab for Women’s Human Rights and Shari’a Implementation in Nigeria: The journey so far,” Lagos, 2003.  The judgement of the court of appeal was also covered in many Nigerian newspapers, for example “At last, court frees Safiya,” The Punch, March 26, 2002.

[86]  For further details of the case, see Chapter 3 of “Baobab for Women’s Human Rights and Shari’a Implementation in Nigeria: The journey so far,” Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, Lagos, 2003.  Also see press articles including “Adultery: Shari’a court frees Hafsatu,” The Punch, January 24, 2002, and “Nigeria’s ‘adulteress’ set free,” BBC website, http:/, January 23, 2002.

[87] See Chapter 3 of Baobab for Women’s Human Rights report, as above; and Human Rights Watch interview, Abuja, November 15, 2002.

[88] Human Rights Watch interview, Shari’a Court of Appeal, Kano, July 31, 2003.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, July 30, 2003.

[90] Human Rights Watch interviews, Kano, July and December 2003.   Those sentenced under the former governor are Danladi Dahiru, Haruna Bayero, Abubakar Mohammed, Mohammed Bala, Haruna Musa, Aminu Ahmed, and Ali Liman.  The three sentenced under the current governor are Allassan Ibrahim and Hamza Abdullahi, from Dambatta local government, and a man from Wudil local government reportedly sentenced for stealing a goat in early June 2003. 

[91] Human Rights Watch interview with Magaji Abdullahi, Deputy Governor of Kano State, Kano, July 31, 2003.

[92] Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, July 30, 2003, and media sources.

[93] The participation of physicians in torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment goes against principles and guidelines on medical ethics adopted by the U.N. and international medical professional bodies, as outlined in Section XV of this report. 

[94] Human Rights Watch interview, Gusau, August 1, 2003.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmed Sani, Governor of Zamfara State, Gusau, August 4, 2003.

[96] Ibid.

[97] Human Rights Watch interviews, Gusau, August 1-4, 2003.

[98] Human Rights Watch interview, Gusau, August 1, 2003.

[99] Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmed Sani, Governor of Zamfara State, Gusau, August 4, 2003.

[100] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed Sani Takori, Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General, Zamfara State, Gusau, August 4, 2003.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmed Sani, Governor of Zamfara State, Gusau, August 4, 2003.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, December 13, 2003, and press conference statement by the Civil Rights Congress “The Zaria 6: save them from amputation,” August 11, 2004.   See also “Sharia appeal court to review conviction of six men,” Vanguard, August 17, 2004.

[104] Human Rights Watch interview, Abuja, August 8, 2003.

[105]  Prison records, Goron Dutse Prison, Kano State, December 14, 2003.

[106]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Kebbi Prison, Birnin Kebbi, December 17, 2003.

[107]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kebbi Prison, Birnin Kebbi, December 16, 2003.

[108]  Human Rights Watch interview, Abuja, December 19, 2003.   The National Human Rights Commission was set up by the federal government in 1996 to monitor human rights developments and advise the government on human rights policies.  It sometimes intervenes on behalf of victims in individual cases. 

[109]  Human Rights Watch interview, Abuja, July 1, 2004.

[110]  The cases documented by Human Rights Watch were primarily in Zamfara, Kebbi and Kano states.  Other organizations documented similar cases in Sokoto and Katsina states. 

[111]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kebbi Prison, Birnin Kebbi, December 17, 2003.

[112]  Ibid.

[113]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kebbi Prison, Birnin Kebbi, December 17, 2003.

[114]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Zamfara Prison, Gusau, December 15, 2003.

[115]  Ibid.

[116]  Ibid.

[117]  Human Rights Watch interview, Zamfara Prison, December 15, 2003.

[118]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kebbi Prison, Birnin Kebbi, December 17, 2003.

[119]  Human Rights Watch interview, Zamfara Prison, December 15, 2003.

[120]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kano Central Prison, December 12, 2003.

[121]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Goron Dutse Prison, Kano State, December 14, 2003.

[122]  Ibid.

[123]  Ibid.

[124]  Ibid.

[125]  Human Rights Watch interview, Zamfara Prison, December 15, 2003.

[126]  Ibid.

[127]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Kano Central Prison, December 12, 2003.

[128]  Ibid.

[129]  No further information was available at the time of writing.

[130]  Ibid.

[131]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kano Central Prison, December 12, 2003.

[132]  Ibid.

[133]  Ibid.

[134]  Ibid.

[135]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, December 13, 2003.

[136]  Section 389 (1) of the Kano State Criminal Procedure Code Cap.37 (Amendment) Law 2000 specifies that the court must be “satisfied that the accused has clearly understood the meaning of the accusation against him and the effect of his confession.”

[137]  Human Rights Watch correspondence, April 26 and September 9, 2004.

[138]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kano Central Prison, December 12, 2003.

[139]  Ibid.

[140]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Goron Dutse Prison, Kano State, December 14, 2003.

[141]  Ibid.

[142]  Mohammed Bala told Human Rights Watch that the judge at the court of appeal had sent the case for re-trial because the first judge had used the wrong section of the law, but he did not know which section he was referring to.  Human Rights Watch was unable to obtain confirmation from the judges.  

[143] Human Rights Watch interview, Goron Dutse Prison, Kano State, December 14, 2003.

[144]  Human Rights Watch interview, Zamfara Prison, December 15, 2003.

[145] In this report, the word “child” refers to anyone under the age of eighteen.  The U.N.Convention on the Rights of the Child states: “For the purposes of the present convention, a child is every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”  Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 1, adopted November 20, 1989 (entered into force September 2, 1990).

[146]  Human Rights Watch interview, Abuja, November 15, 2002.

[147]  Amnesty International interviews, Sokoto Prison, March 22, 2003.

[148]  Human Rights Watch interview, Abuja, August 7, 2003.   Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm the progress or outcome of this case.

[149]  Human Rights Watch interview, Gusau, Zamfara State, August 3, 2003.

[150]  Human Rights Watch interview, Gusau, Zamfara State, August 1, 2003.

[151]  Human Rights Watch interview, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, December 17, 2003.

[152]  Human Rights Watch interview, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, December 17, 2003.

[153]  Human Rights Watch interview, Minna, Niger State, August 7, 2003.

[154]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, December 13, 2003.

[155]  Traditionally, the person carrying out the flogging is supposed to place a copy of the Qur’an under his arm to prevent him from raising his hand too high.  In Nigeria, a pillow or a stick is sometimes used instead; alternatively, the person just keeps his arm close to the side of his body and raises his hand vertically when carrying out the flogging.   Some of the states’ Shari’a Codes of Criminal Procedure describe in detail the manner in which flogging should be carried out.  See for example Section 269 (4) of the Zamfara State Shari’ah Criminal Procedure Code Law 2000.

[156]  Human Rights Watch interview, Gusau, Zamfara State, August 4, 2003.

[157]  Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed Sani Takori, Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General of Zamfara State, Gusau, August 4, 2003.

[158]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kaduna, July 24, 2003.

[159]  Human Rights Watch interview, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, December 17, 2003.

[160]  Human Rights Watch interview, Dambatta, Kano State, July 31, 2003.

[161]  More than two thirds of the prison population in Nigeria are held awaiting trial.  Some have been held in pre-trial detention for many years.

[162]  For a comparison of legislation prohibiting alcohol in different states, see “Legal pluralism and the development of the rule of law in Nigeria: issues and challenges in the development and application of the Shari’a,” by Dr Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, August 2003.

[163]  Human Rights Watch interview, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, December 17, 2003.

[164]  Section 38 (c) of the Zamfara State Penal Code states: “A consent is not such a consent as is intended by any section of this Shari’ah Penal Code, if the consent is given […] by a person who is under eighteen years of age or has not attained puberty.”

[165]  For further details of the case, see “Baobab for Women’s Human Rights and Shari’a Implementation in Nigeria:  the journey so far,” 2003; Baobab information bulletin on Bariya Magazu, January 2001; and “Baobab condemns the whipping of Bariya Magazu”, press release of January 2001.   Also see Human Rights Watch news release “Nigeria:  Teenage mother whipped,” January 23, 2001.

[166]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Gusau, Zamfara State, August 2003.

[167]  Human Rights Watch interview, Gusau, Zamfara State, August 4, 2003.

[168]  Section 95 of Zamfara State Shari’ah Penal Code Law, 2000.

[169] For a more detailed account of how Shari’a has affected women in Nigeria, see “Baobab for Women’s Human Rights and Shari’a Implementation in Nigeria:  The Journey so far,” 2003.

[170]  Husseini Abdu, “Power in the Name of Allah?  Muslim Women in Contemporary Nigerian Politics,” presented at a national workshop on Gender, Politics and Power, organized by the Centre for Social Science Research and Development, 29-30 July 2003, Lagos.

[171]  For further details of how the death penalty affects women in Nigeria, see Amnesty International report “The death penalty and women under the Nigerian penal systems,” February 2004.

[172]  Of the four schools of thought, only the Hanafi school allows female judges, but only in cases dealing with civil and financial matters, not in criminal cases.

[173]  See “Shari’a: three offenders get 126 strikes in Zamfara, Katsina,” The Guardian, August 11, 2000, and “Shari’a beating for motorcyclists,” BBC News online, August 10, 2000.

[174]  Section 4 on “commuting by opposite sexes in public transport systems,” Certain Consequential Reform (Socio-Economic, Moral, Religious and Cultural) Law 2001. 

[175]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kaduna, July 25, 2003.

[176]  Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, July 29, 2003. 

[177]  Certain Consequential Reform (Socio-Economic, Moral, Religious and Cultural) Law 2001. 

[178]  Ibid.

[179]  Ibid.

[180]  Human Rights Watch interview, Gusau, August 1, 2003.

[181]  See letter entitled “Termination of appointment,” from D.O.Oziehisa, Head of Administration, Federal Medical Centre, Azare, April 24, 2003.  The nurses who were sacked were Rifkatu J.Gopye, Salome Iliya, M.I.Gotan, Patricia Abe, Joyce Shedule, Anna Walide, Rebecca Phillimon, Sola Atere, Eno Samuel, Magadaline Izuwa, and Ngozi Udegbu.

[182]  Human Rights Watch interview, Lagos, December 9, 2003.  See also “In Bauchi, nurses battle Shari’ah,” ThisDay, July 22, 2002; and “Brief on the Shari’a abuse of the Bauchi eleven,” by the Macedonian Initiative.

[183] Ruling of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Jos Judicial Division, March 24, 2004.

[184] Human Rights Watch e-mail correspondence, August 8, 2004.

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