Nigeria: Arbitrary Arrest and Detention of Men on Charges Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Contact: Cary Alan Johnson, Senior Africa Specialist, New York, 1.212.430.6053

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of 18 men arrested in Bauchi State, Nigeria on Sunday, August 4, 2007. The men, all whom are in their twenties, were originally charged with sodomy, but the charges were later changed to “vagrancy” or “idleness” under Article 372 Sec 2(E) of the Bauchi State Islamic code. If convicted, the men face a one-year prison sentence and twenty lashes. The government maintains that the men were cross-dressers, though the men were not wearing women’s clothes at the time of their arrest.

The men were guests at a heterosexual wedding party held at Benko Hotel, in Yelwa area of Bauchi. A number of other people were originally detained at the party by the police and by the Hisbah, an Islamic anti-vice squad that works closely with the police, but all the women and non-Muslims were all released. The Nigerian media first announced that the men had been arrested at a gay wedding, but this proved to be false.

The first hearing in the case was on August 21 before Alkali (Judge) Malam Kanimi Aboubacar in the Tunda Al Khali Area court. Teargas and bullets shot into the air had to be used to disperse a crowd intent on meting out mob justice against the men and their lawyers. The Nigerian official news agency, NAN, reported that a prison official had been injured when a mob also tried to attack the men in Bauchi prison. The next hearing will be on September 13, 2007.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has ruled in the case of Toonen v. Australia that detention based on sexual orientation is a violation of fundamental human rights, particularly the rights to privacy and non-discrimination. The men appear to have been arrested for no reason other than the presumption that they are homosexuals.

In January 2006, the Nigerian Minister for Justice presented to the Federal Council a bill that would create criminal penalties for anyone engaging in same-sex marriages or relationships and which launched a vigorous attack on freedom of expression, assembly, and association. Article 7 of the proposed Bill goes well beyond any intention to prevent same-sex marriages by criminalizing the actions of anyone who publicly advocates for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and people of transgender status (LGBT). In addition, anyone forming or taking part in a gay or lesbian club or support group would face arrest. By the end of the last egislative session, the Bill had not passed, and was therefore retired. IGLHRC is concerned that the arrest of the 18 men in Bauchi is a preparatory step for the reintroduction of the Bill.

The detainees are:

  • Hassan Musa
  • Ibrahim Sule
  • Muhammed Isah
  • Anas Adumu
  • Suleman Sani
  • Musa Usman
  • Dalimu Adamu
  • Sadiq Dalhatu
  • Ibrahim Abubakar
  • Hafiza Isah
  • Buhari Ali
  • Suleman, M. Mudi
  • Aminu Ibrahim
  • Muhammed Yahaya
  • Halilu Idi
  • Tahir Talimu
  • Abubakar Adamu

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is the only human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or murder because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists on the ground in countries around the world, by monitoring and documenting abuses, by engaging offending governments, and by educating international human rights officials. A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Johannesburg, San Francisco and Buenos Aires.