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Monday, July 15, 2024

UN experts urge Nigerian government to release Kano singer Sharif-Aminu

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UN experts have called on the Nigerian government to immediately and unconditionally release Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, convicted of blasphemy for writing a song and sharing it on a social messaging service.

Sharif-Aminu was sentenced to death by hanging in August 2020 by a High Sharia Court in Kano, northwestern Nigeria, for an allegedly blasphemous song he composed about the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

But following the appeal filed by the convicted man, the Kano State High Court in January 2021 annulled his conviction and sentence on the grounds that his trial before the Sharia court was characterized by procedural irregularities. On that basis, the court ordered his retrial.

Similarly, in August 2022, the Kano Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Kano State High Court, quashing Mr. Sharif-Aminu’s conviction and ordering his retrial.

Mr. Sharif-Aminu, still in custody, has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the order for a new trial.

“Although his death sentence was overturned by an appeal court, we remain deeply concerned that Mr. Sharif-Aminu’s case will be retried based on the same legal framework, the Kano State Sharia Penal Code Act, with serious risks of death The sentence will be confirmed,” the UN experts said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Among the UN experts are Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

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The rest are Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Abolition of the death penalty for blasphemy

They urged the Nigerian government to abolish the imposition of the death penalty for the crime of blasphemy and ensure that it is limited to the “most serious crimes”, after a fair trial that respects fundamental safeguards, in accordance with the country’s obligations under of international human rights law. .

“We note that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has taken up the matter, but we remain deeply concerned that Mr. Sharif-Aminu has spent too long in prison for exercising his human rights,” the experts said.

They recalled that all people have the right to freedom of expression and to manifest their religion or beliefs, as well as to participate in cultural life and the development of their society through artistic expression, without fear of prison, reprisals or even execution. .

“We urge the Supreme Court to consider Mr. Sharif-Aminu’s case as a priority and urgently adopt a decision that takes into account Nigeria’s obligations under international human rights law,” the experts said.

They called on the government to quickly review Mr. Sharif-Aminu’s situation, ensure the protection of his human rights and ensure his physical and psychological well-being, as well as that of anyone attempting to help him defend his human rights.

“If a court reconfirms the death penalty, the Government must stay the execution until Nigerian laws meet its international human rights obligations on issues related to the death penalty,” they said, adding that the imposition of the death penalty for blasphemy charges would amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life under international law.

READ ALSO: Blasphemy: Court announces date to hear cleric’s appeal challenging death penalty

The experts also recommended that Nigeria establish a moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to abolishing it completely.

The statement revealed that experts had raised Sharif-Aminu’s case with Nigerian authorities since his arrest in 2020.

Special rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups are part of what are known as special procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name for the Council’s independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

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