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Amina Lawal - another woman facing death by stoning

By Amnesty International - posted Sunday, 15 September 2002

Back in October 2001, 35-year old Safiya Hussaini was condemned to death, by stoning, for allegedly committing adultery. International outcry led by Amnesty International (the Merton Amnesty Group campaigned for Safiya - see campaign archive) helped save her life; she was acquitted on technical grounds by an appeal court.

Now 30-year old Amina Lawal (right) faces the same death sentence. Amina Lawal was sentenced to death by stoning by a Regional Court in Katsina State, Nigeria for having a child outside marriage. Her sentence was announced on 23 March 2002, three days before the day of Safiya's acquittal.

Amina Lawal's Case - Her Trial and Sentence

When unmarried, Amina became pregnant. Local villagers had her arrested and she was brought before a Regional Court where she was charged with the crime of adultery. Like Safiya, she had no legal representation and there are serious questions about whether the nature of the charges was adequately explained to her.


Under the Katsina regional law, admitting to having a baby amounts to a confession to the crime of adultery. As in the case of Safiya Hussaini, the man identified as Amina's partner - the alleged father of her baby daughter - was released. The court said there was insufficient evidence against him.

For him to be convicted, he must either confess, or 4 other men must testify that they witnessed the adultery.

With the help of a Nigerian women's rights group, Amina has appealed against the sentence. After several adjournments, the appeal was rejected on Monday, August 19. A new appeal at a higher court has been lodged.

Victims of Poverty

Like Safiya, Amina comes from an impoverished background. Both were married in their early teens (12 and 14 respectively) only to be divorced at a later stage and left to raise their children by themselves.

The softly spoken and largely unschooled Lawal told AFP that her main worries were the strain the case was putting on her parents and what would happen to her baby daughter Wasila if she is put to death.

Women's and Human Rights organisations in Nigeria have already highlighted the emerging pattern of people from poor backgrounds - particularly women - being the victims of cruel, inhumane and discriminatory sentences introduced by Regional laws in the states of northern Nigeria.


Amina's Fundamental Human Rights

In Nigeria, laws can be introduced by Regional States which may be contrary to Federal Nigerian Law. Under the Regional Law of Katsina State, a death sentence can be imposed on any man or woman who has sex outside of marriage.

Under Federal Nigerian law, Amina has the right to have her life and personal dignity respected. This right is enshrined in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, which confirms the sanctity of human life. This right is also recognised by all the international and regional human rights declarations and conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory.

These cases created a political storm in Nigeria. The Nigerian Federal Government recognises that laws which discriminate against women are unacceptable, and that the death penalty is inhumane and inappropriate.

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About the Author

Amnesty International is an NGO which campaigns for human rights world wide, and has also run a campaign for Amina Lawal.

Related Links
Amina Lawal campaign page
Amnesty International
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