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(New York, January 23, 2001) - Human Rights Watch today condemned the Nigerian government's failure to protect a teenage mother, Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, from being whipped by local officials. Officials of Zamfara state carried out a flogging of one hundred lashes as punishment for Magazu's having sex outside marriage, although an appeal against her conviction and sentence was pending.

"Nigerian officials rushed to impose this cruel and inhuman punishment and ignored the court's review of Magazu's conviction and sentence," said Regan E. Ralph, executive director of the Women's Rights division of Human Rights Watch. "Corporal punishment is never defensible, and it's particularly offensive here, where a young girl has been charged with a crime because she gave birth," added Ralph.

Magazu, in her early teens, was sentenced to 180 lashes in September 2000 by an Islamic court in the northern Nigerian state of Zamfara. Zamfara state, together with other northern Nigerian states, has recently extended the application of Islamic Sharia law to include such punishments. Magazu was found guilty of having sex outside marriage and bringing false charges upon the men she allegedly had sex with. Last week, the court reduced the conviction to one hundred lashes, which it said was the penalty for breaking the law prohibiting premarital sex, and canceled the eighty lashes handed down for falsely accusing the men involved of forcing her to have sex with them. Despite the pending appeal of her case, Magazu was lashed a hundred times on Friday morning, January 19, 2001.

Human Rights Watch urged the Nigerian government to review its legal processes to ensure that all cases, including those in Sharia courts, are dealt with in accordance with due process of the law as set out in international human rights standards and the Nigerian constitution. The international monitoring group also called on the Nigerian government to protect those accused from the arbitrary meting out of extreme and unacceptable punishments.

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