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II. Recommendations

To Nigerian government and judicial authorities, at federal and state levels

  • The Nigerian federal and state governments should carry out a review of Shari’a state legislation introduced since 2000 and remove those sections of the laws which violate fundamental human rights and breach Nigeria’s obligations under the Nigerian constitution and international human rights conventions.  In particular, they should eliminate provisions for cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments including death sentences, amputations, and floggings, and provisions which discriminate against women.  They should also decriminalize consensual sexual relations between adults.
  • The federal government should take steps towards the abolition of the death penalty in all legal systems operating in Nigeria.   Pending abolition, judges should refrain from handing down death sentences, amputations and floggings, and government authorities should not authorize the execution of these punishments.   State governors should commute all outstanding death and amputation sentences.
  • Prisoners who have been sentenced to amputation should be released if they have already served a prison term commensurate with their offense.  An independent judicial panel should review their cases promptly and recommend their release as appropriate.
  • Authorities should make it mandatory that at least three judges sit in lower or upper Shari’a courts dealing with criminal cases, particularly for offenses punishable by death or amputation.
  • Shari’a court judges should always inform defendants of their rights, ensure that they have understood these, and confirm that they are fully aware of the sentence they may face if they plead guilty.  Judges should systematically inform defendants of their right to legal representation and offer them the opportunity to adjourn the trial to give them time to find a lawyer.  Legal representation should be made mandatory in all trials where the offense is punishable by death or amputation and the federal and state governments should enable defendants who are indigent to receive free legal representation.
  • Judges should not convict defendants solely on the basis of a confession.  In cases where a confession is considered alongside other evidence, judges should always verify that the confession has been made willingly. Judges should never accept statements alleged to have been extracted under torture.  They should order immediate independent investigations into any claims by defendants that the police tortured them in order to extract a confession.  Prisoners convicted on the basis of confessions allegedly extracted under torture should be released immediately.
  • Government and judicial authorities should continue to develop training programs for Shari’a court judges, as well as judges working under parallel legal systems.  The training should emphasize the importance of respecting due process and should include detailed training in human rights law and its application.  Judges should be made aware of Nigeria’s ob ligations under the international and regional conventions it has ratified.  Judges’ application of this training should be regularly monitored and measures taken against judges who fail to respect due process.
  • More generally, state governments should encourage public reflection and debate on the compatibility of human rights and Islamic law, as well as other systems of law, and highlight the notions of justice, compassion and fundamental rights which are integral to Shari’a.
  • State governments should instruct the hisbah not to harass or abuse members of the general public and should set up mechanisms to monitor their adherence to these instructions.  If hisbah members apprehend someone suspected of committing a criminal offense, they should immediately hand them over to the police.  Under no circumstances should they dispense punishment themselves.  Any member of the hisbah responsible for ill-treating a suspected criminal should be suspended from his duties and brought to justice. 

To foreign governments and intergovernmental organizations

  • Continue to encourage the Nigerian federal and state governments to amend legislation so that it excludes cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishments, provisions which discriminate against women, and the criminalization of consensual sexual relations between adults.
  • Urge government and judicial authorities to ensure respect for due process in Shari’a court trials.
  • Support initiatives by Nigerian human rights organizations and women’s organizations— financially or otherwise— to provide legal representation, advice, and other forms of assistance to defendants, and to raise awareness of people’s rights under Shari’a, especially among the rural and the poor.
  • Extend concern about human rights in Nigeria to other areas where violations have been at least as grave as under Shari’a. These concerns should be voiced alongside concern about human rights under Shari’a, and with equal force.  In particular, urge the Nigerian government to take effective action to prevent further extrajudicial killings by the security forces and intercommunal violence and to put an end to the impunity protecting those responsible for these crimes.  Also urge the government to address ongoing problems within the common law system in Nigeria, including arbitrary arrests, prolonged pre-trial detention, and torture by the police.  

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>September 2004