The United Nations human rights experts have called on Nigerian authorities to immediately release a 22-year-old singer, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, sentenced to death over an allegedly blasphemous song shared on social media.
The experts called for the death sentence to be overturned and for authorities to guarantee his safety and due process rights while he is appealing his conviction.
“We are deeply concerned over the serious lack of due process in Mr. Sharif-Aminu’s case so far, especially reports that he has been held incommunicado and that he did not have access to a lawyer during his initial trial, a trial that was not open to the public,” they said.
According to them, artistic expression of opinion and beliefs, through songs or other media – including those seen to offend religious sensibilities – is protected in accordance with international law.
“The criminalization of these expressions is unlawful. Music is not a crime,” the experts said.
“We are also gravely concerned about Mr. Sharif-Aminu’s safety, in light of the death threats against him. Nigeria must take effective measures to protect Mr. Sharif-Aminu, in detention as well as after his release.”