United Nations human rights experts have warned that Nigeria’s blasphemy laws infringe on international human rights standards.
The warning which came in a joint letter signed by five special rapporteurs and sent to Nigeria’s government, focused on the May 2022 killing of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu and the imprisonment of Rhoda Jatau, said the human rights group ADF International, one of the organizations that appealed to the United Nations as a result of which this letter was sent to the Nigerian government.
Both women are Christians and were accused of blasphemy, the letter which has been made public after a 60-day confidentiality period, reads. Blasphemy laws have been “shown to violate freedom of religion and belief” and “fuel stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination and incitement to violence.”
Deborah was murdered and set on fire by classmates for sharing her Christian faith. And Jatau, a Christian mother of five, has been in prison for sharing a video condemning Deborah’s killing. Both cases “appear to be related to the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and of freedom of opinion and expression,” the U.N. experts said in the statement.
Jatau was arrested in Bauchi state after receiving a WhatsApp message from Ghana condemning the gruesome killing of Deborah.
The U.N. special rapporteurs who signed the letter include Nazila Ghanea, Matthew Gillett, Morris Tidball-Binz, Irene Khan and Fernand de Varennes.
The Nigerian government has yet to respond to the letter, which might be sent to the U.N.’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerning Jatau’s case.
Giorgio Mazzoli, Director of U.N. Advocacy for ADF International, called for the release of Jatau. Joseph Danboyi, lead counsel for her case, said that the international community’s concerns are appreciated and hopes for her release are high, according to Christian Post.
Rhoda’s next hearing is set for Nov. 28.
The U.N. letter was backed by the advocacy groups Christian Solidarity International and Jubilee Campaign, alongside ADF International, which is providing legal support for Jatau.
The experts warned that blasphemy laws legitimize negative attitudes toward religious minorities and encourage acts of violence.