It has been reported that two prisoners who have been condemned to death in Edo state are to be executed in the near future. This means that the executions may be carried out before the prisoners’ appeals have been heard, and will mark the end of Nigeria’s moratorium on executions. Norway has protested against this, both together with the EU and in a joint note verbale to Nigeria from Norway and Switzerland.
The case has attracted widespread attention in the Nigerian media, and several civil society organisations have also become engaged.
Nigeria has a federal “voluntary moratorium” on executions but the individual states can decide whether or not to apply it. In 2010, all 36 state governors published a statement indicating that they would reintroduce executions of prisoners sentenced to death, in order to reduce overcrowding in prisons. All Nigeria’s more than 800 prisoners who have been condemned to death protested against the statement to the Federal Supreme Court in Lagos, which ruled against the case. It was then brought to the Federal Court of Appeal, where it is still pending.
“Norway opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. It is particularly worrying when the death penalty is applied in cases where fundamental legal safeguards have not been respected,” Ms Larsen said.
Norway is engaged in efforts to abolish capital punishment, both in multilateral forums and through active cooperation with human rights organisations and likeminded countries. The issue of the death penalty is raised at regular intervals with countries where it is used. We give special priority to individual cases where we know that there are plans to carry out the death penalty in a particularly inhumane way or to execute minors, pregnant women or persons who cannot be deemed criminally responsible, and in cases where legal safeguards have not been respected. In such cases, Norway considers the death penalty to be a violation of international law. Norway also urges states that have not yet done so to ratify international agreements that prohibit the use of the death penalty.