UN experts demand release of Yahaya Sharif-Aminu: Nigeria

OHCHR

UN experts* have urged Nigerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, who was convicted of blasphemy for writing a song and sharing it on a social messaging service.

Yahaya Sharif-Aminu was sentenced to the death penalty in 2020.

“Although his death sentence was quashed by a court of appeal, we remain deeply concerned that Mr. Sharif-Aminu’s case will be re-prosecuted based on the same legal framework, the Kano State Sharia Penal Code Law, with serious risks that the death sentence will be confirmed,” the experts said.

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

“We note that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has been seized of the matter but remain deeply concerned that Mr. Sharif-Aminu has been in prison for too long 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 belief, as well as to take part in cultural life and the development of their society through artistic expression, without fear of imprisonment, reprisals or even execution.

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

They requested the Government to promptly review Sharif-Aminu’s situation, guarantee protection of his human rights and ensure his physical and psychological well-being as well as that of anyone seeking to assist him to defend his human rights.

“Should the death sentence be re-confirmed by a court, the Government must issue a stay of execution until Nigeria’s laws comply with its international human rights obligations in matters relating to the death penalty,” they said. The imposition of the death penalty on charges of blasphemy would amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life under international law.

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

The experts have raised Sharif-Aminu’s case with Nigerian authorities since his arrest in 2020.

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