Jubilee Campaign Welcomes EU Resolution in Support of the Release of Yahaya Sharif Aminu and the Repeal of Anti-Blasphemy Laws in Nigeria

April 24, 2023 Washington DC | The resolution which passed the EU parliament nearly unanimously last Thursday called for the immediate withdrawal of the use of the capital punishment for blasphemy in Nigeria and to take steps towards its full abolition. 

Jubilee Campaign welcomes this resolution which brings much needed political and diplomatic attention to the arbitrary detention by Kano authorities, since March 2020 of, then 22-years old, Sufi singer Yahaya Sharif Aminu. The resolution calls on Nigerian authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release the singer and drop all charges. The resolution also brings attention to the arbitrary detention of humanist Mubarak Bala and Christian mother-of-five Rhoda Jatau- who authorities are detaining under blasphemy allegations, without regard for rule of law. It also notes the impact of the anti-blasphemy laws in extrajudicial killings and mob violence – drawing attention to the case of Deborah Yakubu who was stoned and murdered by her own classmates in May 2022, the perpetrators filming the whole sequence. The UN Special Rapporteurs have spoken out regarding Bala and Yahaya but not regarding Deborah or Rhoda so far.  An EU motion to discuss the case of Deborah was called for in the wake of the attack but voted down, therefore her inclusion in this resolution is significant. 

The EU resolution provides  a useful tool to apply pressure on Nigeria, by calling on EU and  its member states to raise individual cases and human rights concerns, including the use of anti-blasphemy laws, with the Nigerian authorities. It also calls on Nigeria to uphold its voluntary and binding commitments to its Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it ratified 30 years ago, by harmonizing its laws, specifically calling for the repeal of its anti-blasphemy laws on a state and federal level, and tackling impunity surrounding blasphemy accusations. 

Jubilee Campaign together with members of the IRF Summit Global Campaign to Repeal the Death Penalty for Apostasy and Blasphemy and over 90 other individuals and organizations echoed the call for the immediate removal of the death penalty for blasphemy. In two UN General Assembly resolutions on the moratorium on the death penalty and extrajudicial executions new language was adopted in December 2022, embedding recommendations supported in the UN Secretary General’s report on the Moratorium on the Death Penalty – emphasizing that the death penalty can never be a sanction for exercising human rights. In the summary executions resolution, Sweden proposed, and succeeded in embedding language bringing visibility to anti-blasphemy law victims by including victims of extrajudicial executions for “exercising their religion or belief” in the preamble. Jubilee Campaign calls on the EU and Nigeria to listen to the unified voices from the EU Parliament and take immediate action to release religious prisoners of conscience who are persecuted under anti-blasphemy laws, including Yahaya Sharif Aminu, Rhoda Jatau and Mubarak Bala, and ensure those committing violent acts against individuals victim to blasphemy accusations are held accountable and that the death penalty as a sanction for blasphemy is completely removed, as well as the use of anti-blasphemy laws to silence diversity of beliefs and expression. States should also support the legal team working to overturn the application of anti-blasphemy laws in Nigeria.