European Union/Nigeria: Resolution on human rights situation in Nigeria

European Union
European Parliament motion for resolution (under Rule 50).
British Conservative Euro-MP Mr John Corrie and Dutch CDA Euro-MP Mrs Hanja Maij-Weggen have tabled on behalf of the 233-strong EPP-ED Group the following Urgency Resolution on the current Human Rights situation in Nigeria.
On 11th April, the European Parliament will hold an Emergency Debate on Human Rights in Nigeria since the Nigerian Islamic law court at Bakori in Katsina State has sentenced Ms Amina Lawal, a 35-year old woman from the village of Kurami, to death by stoning - after she confessed to having had a child while divorced, but acquitted the man involved.

The EPP-ED Group is the largest Political Group in the 626-member European Parliament and represents Conservative and Christian Democrat parties from all 15 EU Member States [53 German MEPs; 37 United Kingdom MEPs; 35 Italian MEPs; 28 Spanish MEPs; 20 French MEPs; 9 Greek MEPs; 9 Dutch MEPs; 9 Portuguese MEPs; 7 Austrian MEPs; 7 Swedish MEPs; 6 Belgian MEPs; 5 Finnish MEPs; 5 Irish MEPs; 2 Luxembourg MEPs; 1 Danish MEP].

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT MOTION FOR RESOLUTION [under Rule 50] on Human Rights situation in Nigeria tabled by John CORRIE MEP and Mrs Hanja MAIJ-WEGGEN MEP on behalf of the EPP-ED Group.

The European Parliament,

- having regard to the EU Council Statement on 27 March 2002 which "welcomes the acquittal of Safiya Hussaini by the Sokoto Sharia Court of Appeal";

- having regard to the resolution on West Africa adopted by the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly on 21 March 2002 in Cape Town [South Africa];

- having regard to the current 58th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva from 18 March to 26 April 2002 and the probable conclusions;

- having regard to its resolution of 7 February 2002 on the EU's rights, priorities and recommendations for the 58th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights;

- having regard to the Letters to the President of Nigeria the Hon Olusegun Obasanjo in January 2002 by the President of the European Parliament and both the EU and ACP Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly appealing for clemency for Safiya Hussaini and Hafsatu Abubakar;

- having regard to its previous resolutions of 15 November 2001 and of 15 February 2001 on the human rights situation in Nigeria;

A. Whereas Nigeria - Africa's most populous country with 110 million citizens, over 250 ethnic groups, and a Federal structure of 36 States - has been riven by ethnic, religious and political tensions which have killed thousands since the 1999 elections that ended 15 years of military rule and repression;

B. Whereas in 2003, Nigeria is scheduled to hold Presidential Elections which risk being overshadowed by ethnic and religious tensions, whereas the economic and democratic potential for Nigeria could set an example for all Africa;

C. Whereas the issue of Islamic Sharia law in Nigeria split a constitutional conference in 1978-79 and has led to a series of bloody religious clashes in the past two years, with the majority Muslim communities in 12 Nigerian states generally in favour, whilst Christian communities in the remaining 24 states mostly against;

D. Whereas the strict and legally questionable interpretation of Sharia law applied by fundamentalists in some northern States of Nigeria undermine civil liberties, denigrate human rights and are preventing efforts to reconcile different ethnic and religious groups;

E. Whereas current legal interpretations of the Sharia penal codes in Nigeria include the application of the Death Penalty which violates international human rights agreements ratified by Nigeria, including:

- the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women;

- the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

F. Whereas the Nigerian Islamic law court at Bakori in Katsina State has sentenced Ms Amina Lawal - a 35-year old woman  from the village of Kurami to death by stoning - after she confessed to having had a child while divorced, but acquitted the man involved;

G. Whereas this latest Sharia court decision in Nigeria comes only days after the Islamic Sokoto Sharia Court of Appeal acquitted Safiya Hussaini of a death penalty by stoning for adultery,  a sentence that caused an unprecedented outcry worldwide, mainly from the European Institutions led by the European Parliament;

H. Whereas on 22 March 2002, international media reported Nigeria's Justice Minister Godwin Agabi's letter to the 12 northern Nigerian States applying Sharia law stating "a Muslim should not be subjected to a punishment more severe than would be imposed on other Nigerians for the same offence" and that any court "which imposes discriminatory punishment is deliberately flouting the constitution" [Section 42 (1a) which guarantees sexual, religious, ethnic and political freedoms];

I. Whereas on 19 February 2002, President of Nigeria Hon Olusegun Obasanjo told journalists in Rome when commenting on Safiya Hussaini's facing death by stoning that "such a judgment could be given at all has certain implications both internally and externally", and on 8 February 2002 Imam Anadu stated openly that the religion of Islam teach that God forgives all sins including illicit sex;

J. Whereas focussed pressure by the European Parliament, Council and Commission through direct and diplomatic channels, plus the organisation of protests around the world by Civil Society - including in Senegal and Ghana - and constant attention to the cases of Hafsatu Abubakar and Safiya Hussaini by the international Media has led to the successful quashing of their sentences to death by stoning for alleged adultery;

1. Welcomes the acquittal on 25 March 2002 of Safiya Hussaini by the Sokoto Sharia Court of Appeal, and the earlier acquittal of the 18-year old Hafsatu Abubakar on 24 January 2002, but emphasizes that all Ms Hussaini's and Ms Abubakar's human rights must be ensured so they can fully reintegrate into Nigerian society;

2. Condemns the decision by the Islamic court at Bakori in Katsina State to sentence Amina Lawal to death by stoning for having a child while divorced;

3. Urges the European Union and international organisations to provide technical legal assistance during the 30-day period in which Amina Lawal can appeal against this latest Sharia ruling;

4. Calls on the State Council on Islamic law and the Governor of Katsina State to quash the death penalty passed on Ms Amina Lawal; and urges both the Nigerian State and Federal authorities to ensure that all other death sentences are also commuted and that all Nigeria's courts cease sentencing people to cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments;

5. Condemns all forms of religious intolerance and expresses its concern that the fundamentalist interpretation of the Sharia law in 12 northern Nigerian states is contrary to the respect for basic human rights even under moderate Islamic legal interpretations of the Koran and asks the Sharia states in northern Nigeria to amend these laws;

6. Reiterates its position on the death penalty and deplores the discriminatory way in which Sharia sentences in Nigeria are imposed predominantly on women;

7. Acknowledges the key role played by Civil Society, particularly human rights and non-governmental organizations, and the international Media in seeking to ensure that Nigeria's Constitutional and International agreements are upheld to protect the human rights of all Nigerian citizens whatever their background or religion;

8. Urges the Nigerian Federal authorities to guarantee the Constitutional right of appeal for all Nigerians condemned by Sharia Codes to Higher Courts both at the State and Federal levels so that an independent, free and fair judicial system prevails;

9. Calls on the Council to open a political dialogue under the Cotonou Partnership Agreement with Nigeria so as to help strengthen and consolidate Nigeria's pluralistic democracy, social and economic justice, and respect for human rights and religious freedoms ahead of the 2003 Elections;

10. Calls on the Commission to evaluate providing extra financial and technical aid to strengthen Nigeria's legal and democratic structures - including the training of lawyers, judges and the police ahead of the 2003 Elections;

11. Urges the European Union to work with other international organisations like the United Nations, the Commonwealth, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Investment Bank to seek solutions that help bring together the different ethnic and religious groupings in Nigeria to start a process of dialogue and reconciliation;

12. Recognises the pivotal role that Nigeria could play in the future development of democracy and trade both in the West African region and in Africa as a whole, and in particular the creation of the African Union; and trusts that all political and religious leaders in Nigeria will seize this chance to end religious, ethnic and political violence;

13. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, Commission, the Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, the Secretary-Generals of the United Nations, African Union, the Commonwealth, OECD, Inter-Parliamentary Union, the 56-nation Organisation of Islamic Conference, the Presidents of the European Investment Bank, the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and the President, Government, Parliament and 36 State Governors of Nigeria.

For further information and interviews, Mr John Corrie MEP [UK Conservative, EPP-ED Group Co-ordinator and Spokesman on EU Development and Co-operation policy, Vice-President of the ACP-EU JPA, former Co-President of the Assembly, and recently appointed Honorary Co-President] can be contacted on:

Strasbourg Tel: +33-(0)3-88.17.5286 / 7286;
Brussels Tel: +32-(0)2-284 5286 / 7286;
UK Office Tel: +44-(0)1557 820232;
UK Mobile: +44-(0)7802 835911.

For further information and interviews, Mrs Hanja Maij-Weggen MEP [Dutch CDA, EPP-ED Group Co-ordinator and Spokesman on ACP-EU relations and the 92-nation ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Leader of the Dutch CDA Delegation in the European Parliament, and former Dutch Government Minister] can be contacted on:

Strasbourg Tel: +33-(0)3-88.17.5867 / 7867;
Brussels Tel: +32-(0)2-284 5867 / 7867;