The man was charged with sodomy in a Sharia court and sentenced to death after admitting having sexual relations with other men.
LAGOS (Reuters) - A U.N. human rights expert raised the alarm on Friday
over the case of a man who is on death row in northern Nigeria awaiting
execution by stoning after a Sharia court found him guilty of sodomy.
Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or
arbitrary executions, called for the entire process that led the man's
sentencing to death to be reviewed immediately.
"Sodomy cannot be considered one of the most serious crimes for which,
under international law, the death penalty can be prescribed. The
punishment is wholly disproportionate," Alston said in a press statement at
the end of a visit to Nigeria.
Africa's most populous country, with 140 million inhabitants, is split
about evenly between Muslims in the North and Christians in the South.
Twelve northern states introduced Sharia, or Islamic law, in 2000, shortly
after Nigeria returned to civilian rule following 15 years of military
Alston interviewed the sodomy convict in prison in Kano, the main northern
city, during a fact-finding visit.
He said the man, who is about 50, was initially accused by a Hisbah
Committee, or group of volunteers who help uphold Sharia, of having
homosexual sex with a much younger man. He denied the charge and a Sharia
court acquitted him.
However, asked by the judge if he had had homosexual sex on other
occasions, the man said yes and on that basis he was convicted of sodomy
and sentenced to death by stoning. There was no suggestion in the
conviction that the sex was not consensual.
Alston said he had no way of knowing if the case was an isolated one as he
had stumbled upon the man by chance while investigating death row in the
Kano prison. While no other sodomy convictions had been brought to his
attention, it was possible there were other cases.
Ten Nigerian women have been sentenced to death by stoning for having sex
outside of wedlock since Sharia was brought in. The sentences sparked
international outcries and all were overturned on appeal.
The introduction of Sharia alienated Christians living in northern regions
and led to inter-religious fighting that has killed thousands of people.