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Being gay in Nigeria means death by stoning

Life under Sharia: a Nigerian man is facing death by stoning because he admitted to having had consensual gay sex.

A U.N. human rights expert raised the alarm on Friday over the case of a man who is on death row in northern Nigeria awaiting execution by stoning after a Sharia court found him guilty of sodomy.

Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, called for the entire process that led the man's sentencing to death to be reviewed immediately.

"Sodomy cannot be considered one of the most serious crimes for which, under international law, the death penalty can be prescribed. The punishment is wholly disproportionate," Alston said in a press statement at the end of a visit to Nigeria.

Africa's most populous country, with 140 million inhabitants, is split about evenly between Muslims in the North and Christians in the South.

Twelve northern states introduced Sharia, or Islamic law, in 2000, shortly after Nigeria returned to civilian rule following 15 years of military dictatorship.

Alston interviewed the sodomy convict in prison in Kano, the main northern city, during a fact-finding visit.

He said the man, who is about 50, was initially accused by a Hisbah Committee, or group of volunteers who help uphold Sharia, of having homosexual sex with a much younger man. He denied the charge and a Sharia court acquitted him.

However, asked by the judge if he had had homosexual sex on other occasions, the man said yes and on that basis he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to death by stoning. There was no suggestion in the conviction that the sex was not consensual.

Alston said he had no way of knowing if the case was an isolated one as he had stumbled upon the man by chance while investigating death row in the Kano prison. While no other sodomy convictions had been brought to his attention, it was possible there were other cases.

Ten Nigerian women have been sentenced to death by stoning for having sex outside of wedlock since Sharia was brought in. The sentences sparked international outcries and all were overturned on appeal.

The introduction of Sharia alienated Christians living in northern regions and led to inter-religious fighting that has killed thousands of people.

Posted by zorkmidden on Jul 09, 2005 8:00 am

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