Nigeria sentences 2 women to death by stoning

A court in the conservative Muslim north of Nigeria sentenced two women to death by stoning for adultery on Friday. Both women plan to appeal the sentences.


ABUJA, Nigeria — A court in northern Nigeria has sentenced two women to death by stoning for allegedly committing adultery, and both will soon appeal the sentences, a human rights group said Friday.

The sentences, passed down in Nigeria’s Bauchi state in September and early October, are the first of their kind in over a year in the mainly Muslim north, where 12 states have introduced controversial Islamic Shariah criminal codes since 1999.

One of the two women, 18-year-old Hajara Ibrahim, was sentenced Oct. 5. She is due to appeal the ruling on Monday, said Bunmi Dipo-Salami of Baobab, a group of human rights lawyers that is funding lawyers for her defense.

Ibrahim, who is about seven-months pregnant, was convicted of adultery. But Dipo-Salami said the case was being appealed on the basis that Ibrahim was technically never married.

Under the code, sex outside wedlock is considered adultery if one of the partners is or has ever been married. If neither partner was ever married, then sex outside wedlock is condemned as “fornication,” punishable by whipping.

Dipo-Salami said Ibrahim was promised in matrimony to a man while still a minor, lived with him for only a short time and the marriage was never consummated.

Ibrahim was impregnated by another man, Dipo-Salami said. The Shariah court ordered her to return to her home village, where she is to give birth before the sentence is carried out.

The other woman, 25-year-old Daso Adamu, was sentenced to death by stoning on Sept. 15. She says she was made pregnant by one of her two ex-husbands and is appealing on the basis that the sentence was “unfair and unjust,” said a Baobab official, who gave no further details.

Adamu was initially imprisoned along with her baby of less than six months. She was released on bail on Wednesday, after her first appeal hearing. The case was adjourned until Nov. 3.

Pregnancy as evidence
Under Shariah law, men can only be convicted of adultery on the basis of witness statements, while pregnancy is considered sufficient evidence to convict women. In all but one case, men have been cleared, as Shariah courts found there was insufficient evidence to prove they had sex with the women. Tests to determine children’s paternity have not been conducted by the courts.

The sole man convicted is Ahmadu Ibrahim, who was convicted along with the woman he allegedly committed adultery with, Fatima Usman. They were both sentenced to death two years ago and are appealing.

No one has so far been stoned to death under Shariah in Nigeria. Two other women have previously been sentenced to death for adultery, but both sentences were overturned on appeal. The first, Safiya Hussaini, had her sentence overturned on appeal in March 2003. The second, Amina Lawal, went through a seven-month legal battle in which her first appeal was rejected as international outcry increased. Finally, her sentence was overturned on a technicality in September 2003.

Controversy over the introduction of Shariah criminal law in Nigeria in 1999 and 2000 sparked clashes in which thousands were killed, both in the north and the majority-Christian south.