Monday, August 01, 2005
Barney Frank leads charge protesting gay death sentence in Nigeria
22 Dems sign letter condemning Nigerian human rights abuse
A 50-year-old man was recently condemned to death in Nigeria after being accused of having sex with another man. He was arrest and tried for this "offense," then was acquitted due to lack of evidence. After he mentioned to the judge that he had had sexual relationships with men in the past, he was placed on death row where he awaits execution.
In response, Barney Frank (D-MA) organized his colleaugues in writing a response addressed to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in strong protest of the impending execution.
Nigeria has had previous problems with human rights abuses and have a poor record with especially with regard to fairness in their courts. The State Department's 2004 Country Report on Human Rights Practices gives Nigeria low marks on this issue.
A special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights met with the convicted man while visiting prisons in the African nation, and reports indicate that the punishment is described as "wholly disproportionate.
The letter below was signed by 22 House Democrats. It should have been signed by all member of both Houses of Congress and the President.
August 1, 2005
His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
The President's Office
Dear President Obasanjo,
We write to express our serious concern over a recent case in the northern state of Kano of a 50-year-old Nigerian man who was sentenced to death by stoning after admitting to homosexual sex.
According to reports, the man was charged with sodomy, based on an accusation made by a neighbor, and was arrested and brought before a Shari'a court.
After the man was acquitted for lack of evidence, the judge then asked him if he had had homosexual sex on other occasions, and when the man said yes, on that basis, he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to death by stoning. There was no suggestion in the conviction that the sex was not consensual.
The specific circumstances of this conviction are highly problematic, and, in fact, we believe that the execution by stoning or by any other means of any individual for private, adult, consensual sexual activity is grossly inhumane and well below the standards that any civilized society should uphold.
We strongly urge you to intervene in this case to assure that this man's legal and human rights are respected and defended. We share the view of the special rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights who recently ended a visit to Nigeria with a call for the death penalty to be dropped in cases of homosexuality and for "immediate measures to review the entire proceedings" of this man's case in particular.
We have been very supportive of your efforts to transform Nigeria from military to civilian rule, and we applaud in particular the role your country is playing to help foster stability in West Africa. We also continue to be supportive of U.S. aid to Nigeria, but we must tell you that Americans are also entitled to expect that countries that benefit from our humanitarian and economic assistance will not tolerate practices that are so clearly in violation of basic human rights.
REP. BARNEY FRANK
REP. BARBARA LEE
REP. DONALD M. PAYNE
REP. TOM LANTOS
REP. JANICE D. SCHAKOWSKY
REP. JULIA CARSON
REP. TAMMY BALDWIN
REP. JIM McDERMOTT
REP. SUSAN A. DAVIS
REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY
REP. HENRY A. WAXMAN
REP. MICHAEL M. HONDA
REP. BERNARD SANDERS
REP. MICHAEL R. McNULTY
REP. JAMES P. McGOVERN
REP. VIC SNYDER
REP. JAMES P. MORAN
REP. ELIOT L. ENGEL
REP. GARY L. ACKERMAN
REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE
REP. DENNIS J. KUCINICH
REP. BETTY McCOLLUM