October 23 2008
Aubrey Harris (see about us section) posted an article today called
“Nigeria: Too Poor For Justice on AI’s website.
Amnesty International’s latest report on the Nigerian death penalty was released on Tuesday, in cooperation with the Nigerian NGO Legal Defence and Assistance Project. The two organisations are jointly calling for an immediate moratorium on executions in Nigeria after revelations that the death penalty in Nigeria is deeply flawed and unable to produce results that are “either fair or accurate.” In Nigeria most convictions leading to death row are based on confessions produced by a system where torture is a routine tool to extract statements. Some suspects are tortured to death by police.
In Nigeria, more than 40 child offenders sit on death row – in direct contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which bans the practice. Roughly 80 people sit on death row unable to appeal because they were sentenced under military tribunals – also illegal under international law. Others are unable to appeal their case simply because their casefile has been lost!
At least seven prisoners in Nigeria have been sentenced to death by stoning – including one sentenced for sodomy. Such punishment is deliberately designed to prolong the torture of the execution and is an extreme violation of international law.
As with most death penalty systems, the poor are remarkably targeted. Those that cannot afford a lawyer may not have one for their trial or if they are lucky enough to have one through legal aid, that lawyer may not even bother to challenge the case. The poor are also the least likely to be able to afford paying bribes to the corrupt officials responsible for drawing-up the list of names for consideration of pardon.
Like Japan, convicts on death row in Nigeria are kept waiting with no knowledge of when their execution will take place. The process is shrouded in secrecy. In 2007 Amnesty International was able to confirm the executions of 7 prisoners, 6 of whom were never granted a chance to appeal their conviction – despite claims from the Nigerian government when reporting to the UN that “we have not carried out any capital punishment in recent years in Nigeria.” In the past 9 years at least 22 people have been executed by the state. 41 percent of those currently on death row have never appealed or been able to appeal their sentences.
What is more – Nigerian police routinely commit extrajudicial executions of those suspected of “armed robbery” (the same offence recently made capital by the Liberian government).
As of February, 725 men and 11 women wait for death in prison. 5 men are over 80 and one man is 90 years old. Such death will come at the end of a process of gross human rights abuses, violations of international law and ultimately the violation of the right to life and the right not to be subject to cruel and inhumane punishment.