- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

Nigeria sees acquittal
The Nigerian Embassy predicts that a woman condemned to death under strict Islamic local laws will be acquitted by the country's federal appeals courts.
A.A. Agada, the embassy's deputy chief of mission, said Malama Amina Lawal has three levels of appeals before her case is closed. She faces a sentence of death by stoning because she had a baby outside marriage, more than nine months after her divorce.
Her case has drawn international condemnation by human rights groups. The United States last week reminded Nigeria of its obligations under U.N. treaties to prevent cruel and unusual punishment.
Mr. Agada, in an e-mail last week, said he was responding to the international outrage and reminding the world that appellate courts already had acquitted Safia Hussaini, another woman condemned to a stoning death by a state Islamic court.
"Hers was not only a constitutional triumph for our democracy but also of our commitment to the highest ideals of humanity," he said. "The case of Malama Amina Lawal is not different, and Nigeria's commitment to human rights will be vindicated in her eventual acquittal."
About a dozen states in predominately Muslim northern Nigeria have adopted Islamic, or sharia, law, which imposes floggings, amputations or death by stoning for offenses as minor as petty theft.
Those laws do not apply in the other areas of Nigeria, and the national government has criticized sharia law as unconstitutional.
"The embassy wishes to assure all concerned that Nigeria, being a respected member of the international community and signatory to the U.N. Human Rights Charter and the African Charter of Human Rights, is totally committed to its obligations under the said charters and to the protection of human rights of all its citizens and their dignity, irrespective of their religious, political and economic background," Mr. Agada said.
He said the federal government also is assisting Mrs. Lawal's attorneys in their appeals.
Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom has warned that the spread of sharia law could destabilize Nigeria. In a March report, it also noted that the acquittal of Mrs. Hussaini was based on a legal technicality and did nothing to "reverse or moderate sharia" law.
"If left unchecked, sharia's further spread could provoke widespread inter-religious conflict and transform Nigeria … into a center of radical Islamism, linked to foreign radical groups and governments," the report said.
"The enforcement of extreme sharia violates all human rights, especially religious freedom, and destabilizes this already fragile country."

Slovak relief fund
Slovak Ambassador Martin Butora was so shocked at the devastation in his country that he opened a flood-relief fund immediately upon his return from a home visit last week.
Floods in Slovakia have caused nearly $40 million in damage.
"Needless to emphasize, this presents a heavy burden for a country that is presently coping with the painful social impacts of economic reform, including 18 percent unemployment," he said Friday in his appeal for donations.
"Please help our beautiful country overcome the impact of the natural disaster. … Your financial contribution, even the smallest one, would be welcome and highly appreciated by people afflicted by the floods.
"Let us join forces and close the first decade of Slovakia's independence with acts of true human solidarity and compassion."
Mr. Butora said the Slovak capital, Bratislava, was spared from the heavy damage that befell other capital cities, such as the Czech capital, Prague. However, many smaller towns and villages suffered severe damage.
"This presents a special challenge for elderly people, the Roma [Gypsies], small farmers and other vulnerable groups of the population," Mr. Butora said. "Some human losses will need a long time to heal."
The ambassador added, "As you can imagine, there has hardly been a person in Slovakia who does not feel deep compassion and sorrow after seeing the devastation of … the Old Town of Prague."
Contributions can be made to Slovak Flood Relief at the Slovak Embassy, 3523 International Court NW, Washington, D.C., 20008. Wire transfers can be made to account 254-46447, routing number 054000030, at any branch of Riggs Bank.

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