The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has condemned the sentencing of a teenage boy in Nigeria to ten years in prison for blasphemy.
He is reported to have made disparaging remarks about God while arguing with a colleague.
The incident happened in the country’s northern Kano State, where the sharia legal system is still practised. Muslims form the majority in the North.
The sharia law is part of religious precepts of Islam and is practised in Kano alongside Nigeria’s secular laws.
Currently, 12 states in Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated North operate the sharia system of justice, although only Muslims can be tried in its courts.
Violates child rights
Unicef has described the sentencing of the teenager as a complete violation of child rights and justice.
Peter Hawkins, Unicef’s representative in Nigeria, also condemned officials over the decision to incarcerate the boy.
He said it “negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, Kano state – has signed on to.”
Appeal against judgment
While the charia system has its own court of pppeal, its rulings can be challenged in the secular Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Kola Alapinni, the lawyer for the 13-year-old, says he has already filed an appeal against the judgment.
“This is a violation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. A violation of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he told the BBC. It is, however, unknown when the appeal will be heard.
In the past, sentences handed down by sharia courts have included floggings, amputations and the even executions.
The sharia judges who adjudicate cases, known as “alkalis”, are usually learned in both Islamic and secular law.
E A Alanore