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Published On: Thu, Jun 19th, 2014

Court upholds rights of death row detainees

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high courtBy Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin

A Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has struck out the death penalty imposed on minors and threat of execution in the course of appeal.

The cases were brought before the court in respect of Maimuna Abdulmumini and Thankgod Ebhos to appeal their death sentences handed down a lower court according to a release endorsed by Angela Nwandu for – Avocats Sans Frontières France/Lawyers Without Borders/ said Angela Uwandu, Head of Office in Nigeria.

 The statement added that Maimuna Abdulmumini was tried for the alleged murder of her husband when she was only thirteen years old and was subsequently sentenced to death by a Katsina State High Court in 2012.

It recalled that in February this year, ASFF filed and won an application for interim measures on Maimuna’s behalf, thus restraining the government from executing her, pending the accelerated hearing of her case.

It described the final appeal judgement delivered last Tuesday by the presiding judge, Justice Hansine Donli, as watershed with a particular regard on the need to respect and enforce fundamental human rights as stipulated in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

The release quoted the court as saying that the pronouncing the death sentence on Maimuna for an offence she committed as a minor as a breach of article 6 sub-section 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The court awarded Maimuna N5 million as damages and N500, 000 as cost for the trial.

 Thankgod Ebhos was the fifth inmate of Edo prison who was taken to the gallows but was not executed. Thankgod has been on death row since 1995 after being sentenced to death by a military tribunal.

ASF France had earlier in the year filed and won an injunction at the ECOWAS court, restraining the Edo state government from carrying out the death sentence against him.

 In its final judgment, the court ordered the Nigerian government to remove Thankgod’s name from death row as any attempt to execute him while his appeal was still pending in the Court of Appeal would be a gross violation of his right to appeal as contained in section 6 subsection 4 of ICCPR.

 The statement read in part: “By its judgement, the ECOWAS court has shown commitment to ensuring strict adherence to due process and the right to defence as it relates to detainees on death row. In the wake of the executions in Edo last year, this Judgement cements a step in the move to firmly establish respect for fundamental human rights in the Nigerian legal system,” the statement said.

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