Urgent Action: Nigerian Singer at Risk of Imminent Execution (Nigeria: UA 137.20)
September 4, 2020
Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a 22-year old singer detained in Kano prison, Kano State, in northern Nigeria, is at risk of imminent execution after an Upper Shari’a Court sentenced him to death by hanging for circulating a song via WhatsApp considered blasphemous. Influential individuals and religious leaders are mounting pressure on the authorities to carry out the judgement as soon as possible. Yahaya Sharif-Aminu is now appealing the sentence. He must be immediately and unconditionally released.
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Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje Office of the Governor
Kano State, Nigeria
Telephone: (+234) 7044-930000
Email: [email protected]
I am writing in concern for Yahaya Sharif- Aminu, a 22-year-old singer sentenced to death. In February 2020, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu composed a song that allegedly contains derogatory comments against Prophet Muhammad SWT. This prompted his arrest in March. Also, his family members were forced to flee their home when on 4 March angry youths protested the song and set fire to the family’s house, located at Sharifai quarters in Kano Municipal Local Government Area, northern Nigeria. No one was arrested or prosecuted for the violence.
On 10 August, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu was arraigned before an Upper Shari’a Court in Kano and convicted of blasphemy. He remains remanded in Kano prison. Following his conviction, there has been a huge outcry by several individuals and religious bodies urging the Governor to sign his execution warrant. Yahaya Sharif-Aminu is appealing the death sentence.
I have serious concerns about the fairness of Yahaya Sharif-Aminu’s trial and the framing of the charges against him based on his WhatsApp messages. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. No one should ever be sentenced to death. The imposition of the death penalty following an unfair trial violates the right to life, and hasty trials undermine the ability of convicted persons to seek effective remedies for the inadequate legal representation they had received at trial. Moreover, the use of the death penalty for blasphemy violates Nigeria’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which restricts the use of the death penalty to the “most serious crimes”, which according to international law are crimes that involve intentional killing.
I therefore request that you refrain from signing any execution warrant for Yahaya Sharif- Aminu; and release Yahaya Sharif-Aminu immediately and unconditionally.