The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reacted to the sentencing of 13-year-old Umar Farouq to 10 years in prison for blasphemy in Kano, Nigeria.
Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in Nigeria who released a statement condemning the court sentence, insisted that it contradicts the United Nations convention on the rights of the child.
Nigeria ratified the convention in 1991 and also called on the Kano state government to urgently reverse the sentencing.
Umar was handed the jail sentence by Aliyu Kanu, the same judge who passed a death sentence on Kano musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu for blasphemy.
The musician was found guilty of using “disparaging language on Allah” during a disagreement with his friend.
“The sentencing of this child –13-year-old Omar Farouk to 10 years in prison with menial labour is wrong.
“It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria and by implication, Kano State – has signed on to.
“The sentence is in contravention of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which Nigeria ratified in 1991. It is also a violation of the African charter on the rights and welfare of the child – which Nigeria ratified in 2001, and Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003, which domesticates Nigeria’s international obligations to protect children’s right to life, survival and development”.
Kano is a northern Nigerian state that holds the Islamic Sharia law in high esteem.
Since year 2000, twelve states in northern Nigeria have added criminal law to the jurisdiction of Shari’a (Islamic law) courts.Shari’a has been in force for many years in northern Nigeria, where the majority of the population is Muslim, but until 2000, its scope was
limited to personal status and civil law.
The manner in which Shari’a has been applied to criminal law in Nigeria so far has raised a number of serious human rights concerns.
It has also created much controversy in a country where religious divisions run deep, and where the federal constitution specifies that there is no state religion.
Shari’a is seen by many Muslims as an entire system of guidelines and rules which encompass criminal law, personal status law, and
many other aspects of religious, cultural, and social life.