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Rights groups urge reform of Nigeria death penalty practices

[JURIST] Amnesty International and the Nigerian Legal Defense and Assistance Project (LEDAP) [advocacy websites] condemned Nigeria's capital punishment practices in a joint report [PDF text; press release] released Tuesday, claiming that death row inmates are being denied their rights to proper representation and appeal and calling for a moratorium on executions. According to the report,

capital punishment can only be used after the most exacting due process of law. However, as this report shows, the failures in the Nigerian criminal justice system breach international human rights law and standards. Suspects in capital offences and death row prisoners are denied their right to a fair trial and appeal process. The violation of an individual's legal rights often starts at the point of arrest. Police routinely use torture to extract confessions as a substitute for thorough and impartial investigation of the crime. As a result the majority of death row prisoners were sentenced to death based on confessions.
Of 736 prisoners currently awaiting execution in the country, the groups say that 35 have spent more than 15 years on death row and 47 percent are waiting for their appeals to be concluded. Twenty-five percent of appeals have lasted longer than five years, with some lasting as long as 20. Reuters has more.

Instances of police torture and other human rights violations [JURIST report] in Nigeria have been previously flagged [UN News Centre report] by the United Nations as well as Amnesty. Section 33(1) of the Nigerian Constitution [text] specifically permits abrogation of an individual's right to life "in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria." Amnesty is uniformly opposed to the death penalty in all cases and in all countries. Last week, Amnesty released a report linking the large number of executions in Saudi Arabia [JURIST report] to flaws in the Saudi justice system, including the closed nature of the judicial process, the imposition of the death penalty for relatively minor offenses and a lack of legal assistance for the accused.

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