Amnesty International told to 'stop interfering'

An influential Nigerian Islamic body on Wednesday warned the London-based rights group Amnesty International to stop interfering in Islamic religion in the name of human rights campaigns.

The warning by the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the umbrella body for Nigeria’s Muslims, followed Tuesday’s report by Amnesty condemning the use of the death penalty in 12 northern Nigerian states where the Sharia legal system is in operation.

JNI spokesperson Zubairu Jibrin told a local radio in a report monitored in Kano that the rights group is hiding under the guise of human rights to attack Islam or the Sharia legal system.

“We are warning Amnesty to desist from disparaging Islam under the guise of human rights,” he said.

“The issue of stoning for adultery is an Islamic injunction which applies only to Muslims and every Muslim who commits adultery is aware of the consequence of this offence if he is prosecuted,” he added.

“The issue of stoning for adultery is not confined to Islam. Both Judaism and Christianity prescribe same punishment for adultery, even in severer form,” he added.

Amnesty had said the death penalty violates women’s human rights by curbing their right to a fair trial and by exposing them to homicide charges for abortion-related offences.

The London-based organisation said it “believes that the death penalty in its application in Nigeria in particular violates women’s human rights to access to justice ... and has a discriminatory effect on women in certain cases and for certain crimes”.

It said that the death penalty remains on the books in Nigeria in both its Constitution and in the Islamic law imposed in 12 northern states for a range of crimes including armed robbery, treason, murder and culpable homicide, with the latter “often” being used in abortion-related cases.

There have been “at least 33 death sentences since 1999”, a summary of the report said.

“One of the convicted was a woman charged with a capital offence of culpable homicide, after allegedly having had a still-born baby, which event the court termed as an illegal abortion,” it added.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country of about 126-million people, is almost evenly spread between Muslims and Christians.

The reintroduction of the Sharia in 12 northern states since Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999 after more than 15 years of military dictatorship has been widely criticised by local and international rights bodies, Christians and the country’s central government.

Last month, President Olusegun Obasanjo told an international audience the Islamic legal system had fizzled out in Nigeria.—Sapa-AFP

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