UN Support for Yahaya Sharif-Aminu

UN Support for Yahaya Sharif-Aminu

Today, United Nations experts urged Nigerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Yahaya Sharif-Aminu. On August 10, 2020, an Upper Shariah Court in Kano State, Nigeria, sentenced 22, year-old Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, to death by hanging on charges of blasphemy. Sharif-Aminu was tried without legal representation after being held incommunicado for six months.

The Foundation for Religious Freedom (FRF) swiftly appealed the conviction at the Kano High Court. The appeal was successful, and the conviction was quashed on 21 January 2021. However, the court ordered that Sharif-Aminu be remitted to the original Shariah court for a re-trial. Four days later, FRF appealed to the Appellate Court against the retrial. It took until August 2022 for the Appellate Court to dismiss the appeal. Following this setback, FRF appealed to the Nigerian Supreme Court. A date for the hearing is awaited. Meanwhile, Sharif-Aminu remains incarcerated more than four years after his arrest.

This case has caught the attention of international bodies and human rights advocates. UN experts have repeatedly urged Nigerian authorities to release Yahaya unconditionally. They emphasize that his detention and potential retrial violate fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression and belief, enshrined in international law and the Nigerian Federal Constitution.

They requested the Nigerian government to urgently review Sharif-Aminu’s situation, guarantee the protection of his human rights and ensure his physical and psychological well-being as well as that of anyone seeking to assist him in defending 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.

FRF continues to champion Yahaya’s cause, highlighting the broader implications of his case. It is not just a fight for one man’s life but a stand against the persecution of religious minorities and the suppression of free expression in Nigeria. The FRF calls on the Nigerian government to align its laws with international human rights obligations and to ensure that no one else suffers the same fate as Yahaya.

The prolonged detention and the threat of re-prosecution highlight a critical human rights issue. FRF and international supporters urge the Supreme Court of Nigeria to prioritize Yahaya’s case and deliver justice that reflects the country’s commitment to human rights. The establishment of a moratorium on the death penalty for blasphemy and similar charges is imperative to prevent future miscarriages of justice.

Yahaya Sharif-Aminu’s case poignantly reminds us of the importance of safeguarding religious freedom and freedom of expression. FRF remains steadfast in its mission to defend these rights and secure Yahaya’s release. We urge all concerned individuals and organizations to join us in this critical fight for justice and human dignity.

The UN experts who spoke out today were Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.

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