From August 29th to September 6th the FIDH, in partnership with the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), its member organisation in Nigeria, conducted a fact-finding mission in Nigeria with the mandate to examine the human rights implications of the implementation of the Sharia criminal law in some states of Nigeria and the progress of the domestication of the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The mission, composed of Silvija Panovic-Duric (Yugoslavia), Magdi El Naim (Sudan) and Maina Kiai( Kenya) went to Lagos, Kaduna, Zamfara States and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. Delegates met with government officials at both federal and state levels, representatives of NGOs as well as civil society organizations.

The following are some of our preliminary findings and recommendations, which will be followed by a more detailed report:

I. On the implementation of Sharia
1. The implementation of Sharia (Muslim law) is not new in Nigeria and has been practiced in Nigeria since the late fifties in the area of personal law. The implementation of the criminal aspects of Sharia, from the year 2000, in some of the Northern states has legitimately led to high emotions in the Nigerian society. It is important that discussion of Sharia be conducted with less emotions and much more dialogue between the two different sides - those in favour of the criminal aspects and those opposed to it. Most of those whom met by the mission, especially civil society representatives, emphasized the need to promote responsible and calm dialogue that should refer effectively to the universality of international human rights standards and to democratic principles.

2. To the extent that Sharia governs the relations among persons belonging to Muslim communities, it might be seen as one of the ‘customary laws’ of Nigeria. The possibility for every individual and community to choose the legal system of their choice should necessarily be exercised in full respect of the Nigerian Constitution and the universal international human rights standards.

3. Since the implementation of the criminal aspect of Sharia, there have been cases where the sentences included stoning to death and other corporal punishments (Hudud): amputation of limbs and flogging. The FIDH denounces the condemnation to such punishments and their implementation which violate international human rights instruments, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Nigerian Constitution.

4. The FIDH welcomes the commitment by the Kaduna State Government through the Deputy Governor, that Kaduna State will not carry out any Hudud punishments. The FIDH calls upon the national and international community to monitor the situation in Kaduna to ensure that the State keeps its commitment.

5. The FIDH especially condemns the implementation of the Sharia on non-muslims living in the states that implement Sharia. Fear and uncertainty have resulted in migration out of Sharia States. Certain legitimate businesses have been forced to close. Women especially have been the targets of discrimination in public transportation and housing for single women.

6. The FIDH recommends human rights training for the Presidents of the Sharia Courts, especially in the lower Sharia Courts.

7. The FIDH recommends further in depth field research and reflection within the international human rights community on the implications of implementing Sharia in Nigeria. The FIDH recommends in particular to the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on violence against women and to the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on Women rights in Africa to visit Nigeria.

8. The FIDH calls upon the Nigerian authorities to give a positive answer to the request by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion to visit the country.

Ii The International Criminal Court

1 We welcome the ratification of the Rome statute of the ICC by Nigeria on 27 September 2001.

2 Since under Nigerian law it is necessary to incorporate a treaty into domestic legislation for the treaty to have the full force of law, we urge the Presidency together with the Legislature to work towards passing the bill for the domestication of the ICC Statute.

3 We encourage the newly established Nigerian Coalition for the ICC and civil society to engage in necessary legislative advocacy and to sensitize the Nigerian public and Government on the importance of the ICC Statute and the need for its timely domestication.

4 The ICC is one of the tools for addressing the world-wide problem of impunity for human rights violations. In Nigeria, the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (the Oputa Panel) has been used to address the issue of impunity. The Oputa Panel completed its task earlier this year and submitted its Report to the President. We urge the immediate release of the Report together with its recommendations. We hope that it will result in holding accountable the perpetrators of past human rights abuses.

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