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Nigeria
25.10.02
Urgent Interventions

Nigeria: Follow-up: Fatima Usman and Ahmed Ibrahim released on bail

Case NGA 111002.1 / 111002.1.VAW
URGENT APPEAL / VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Follow-up of Case NGA 111002 / 111002.1.VAW
Release on bail / Death penalty

Geneva, October 25, 2002

The International Secretariat of OMCT has received new information regarding the following situation in Nigeria.

New information

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by a reliable source of the release on bail of 32 year-old Fatima Usman and 35 year-old Ahmed Ibrahim, who have been sentenced to death by stoning in Nigeria.

According to the information received, the Nigerian couple who were sentenced to death by stoning for adultery have been released on bail. Ahmed Ibrahim and Fatima Usman were freed from a federal prison during the week preceding their appeal hearing scheduled for 22 October 2002. Upon their release, they were informed of the death sentence that had been imposed upon them on 9 October by a Sharia court in Niger State.

Journalists attended the appeal hearing at New Gawu Court only to find that the two people had been released pending their sentence, as a result of an emergency motion brought forward by their defence lawyer, Jibril Kallamu. Ms. Usman is nine months pregnant and the release was secured because she is expected go into labour at any moment. The couple, formerly in an unmarried relationship, are still subject to the death sentence by stoning.

While welcoming their release on bail, the International Secreatariat of OMCT is deeply concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Fatima Usman and Ahmed Ibrahim and unreservedly condemns the use of corporal punishment and the death penalty, notably death by stoning in this case, which clearly violates international human rights standards that prohibit the use of torture. OMCT would like to recall that the Government of Nigeria is a State Party to international human rights instruments which prohibit and punish torture, including: the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition, Nigeria is a Party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which prohibits violence and other forms of discrimination against women.

OMCT is particularly concerned by the fact that this latest sentence appears to form part of a series of similar verdicts being handed down by Sharia courts in Northern Nigeria. The majority of sentences to stoning to death for adultery have been handed down against women, as pregnancy is generally used as irrefutable “evidence” of adultery and women are regarded as being less credible witnesses than men. The fact that most of the defendants in these cases have either not been allowed to be present at their trials or have not had adequate legal representation is also of great concern to OMCT.

Brief reminder of the situation

On 9 October 2002, a Sharia court in Niger State adjourned the bail hearing until 22 October for the couple, who were sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Mr. Ibrahim and Ms. Usman were not allowed to be present at either the appellate or the bail hearing. According to the information received, during their detention, the pair was not informed of the guilty verdict and the death sentence, as they were not permitted contact with their lawyers.

Ms. Usman and Mr. Ibrahim were initially found guilty of adultery and sentenced by a Sharia Court of lower instance to a fine of N15,000 and to imprisonment for a period of 5 years. An appeal lodged by the prosecution was upheld by a judge on the grounds that the initial sentence was based on the “old law” and that the appropriate penalty for adultery under the Sharia Penal Code is death by stoning.

Fatima Usman has a two and a half year-old daughter allegedly fathered by Ahmed Ibrahim and she is currently also nine months pregnant with another child, the father of whom is thought to be her former husband from whom she is now divorced. Lawyers for Ms. Usman have expressed grave concerns for her physical and mental health.

Remarks

The OMCT is pleased to learn of the release on bail of Mr. Ibrahim and Ms. Usman, and wishes to thank every individual, organisation and institution that intervened on their behalf.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Nigeria urging them to:

i. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned persons;
ii. intervene with the appropriate authorities in order to secure that the adequate medical assistance is provided as a matter of urgency to the above-mentioned persons;
iii. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses

· His Exellency Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Republic, The Presidency, Federal Secretariat Phase II, Shehu Shagari Way,Abuja; Fax: 234 9 523 21 36 (press office), Email: president.obasanjo@nigeriagov.org

· Alhaji Sule Lamido, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maputo Street , Zone 3 Wuse District, Abuja, Nigeria ; Fax: 234 9 523 02 08.

· Kanu Godwin Agabi, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, New Federal Secretariat complex, Shehu Shagari Way, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria; Fax: 234 9 523 52 08.

· Abdulkadir Kure (PDP), State Governor, State House, 35000 Minna, Niger State, Nigeria.

If you are having problems getting through to the above addresses, please use:

· S.E.M Pius Ikpefuan Ayewoh, Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the United Nations in Geneva, Rue Richard Wagner 1, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland, fax: 0041 22 7341053, e-mail: mission.nigeria@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the embassies of Nigeria in your respective country.

Geneva, October 25, 2002

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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