afrol News, 26 June - Four hangings have already been executed and a fifth is in preparation in Nigeria. The country had imposed a moratorium on state executions in 2006, but governors are now rushed to sign death warrants as President Goodluck Jonathan lifted the ban.
The Nigerian President lifted the moratorium on state executions and told governors to start signing death warrants in a speech two weeks ago. "No matter how painful it is, it is part of their responsibilities," the President said in his speech.
According to Nigerian human rights lawyers and Amnesty International, four inmates have already been executed by hanging during the last week. A fifth inmate, who has had to watch the other executions, is still awaiting his faith. His execution was complicated by the fact that the sentence he received by a military tribunal during the last military dictatorship in Nigeria specifically ordered he be shot to death.
The situation of the fifth inmate has provoked worldwide reactions and calls for him to be spared. Human rights activists are outraged by the treatment he has received, having to witness four executions, but also over the fact that the military trial against him could not have been fair. Also institutions such as the UN and the European Union (EU) have called on Nigerian authorities to stop further executions.
But so far, there seems to be no change of mind in the Nigerian government. News reports from the West African country confirm that governors keep signing death warrants. The execution orders are against inmates that have been on death row for over a decade, mostly convicted by military courts that showed no respect for basic human rights whatsoever.
There is also an international disappointment with Mr Jonathan's decision to lift the moratorium on state executions. Most African states now have abolished the death penalty or placed a moratorium on executions, and moratoriums mostly have been a first step on a road towards full abolishment. Human rights groups and international organisations therefore see Mr Jonathan's decision as a large setback for Nigeria.
The UN Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, strongly protested the executions in Nigeria, saying they had been "imposed without due process safeguards," thereby being in violation of international law. Mr Heyns added that without full respect for due process guarantees, "capital punishment constitutes a summary or arbitrary execution."
"I call on the government of Nigeria to refrain from executing further individuals and to return to the moratorium on the use of death penalty in the country," Mr Heyns said in a statement today.
Also the EU foreign policy coordinator Catherine Ashton today protested against the executions. She urged Nigerian governors not to sign any further death warrants. Further she claimed the Jonathan government was now acting in contrary of the commitments he had made the EU-Nigeria human right dialogue in March this year, where a continued moratorium on executions had been mentioned.
There are currently over 1.000 persons on death row in Nigeria, according to official figures. Most of these may still have the right to go through another round of appeal in Nigerian courts.
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