A child bride, a dead husband and a long battle
Bankrupcy

A child bride, a dead husband and a long battle

Summary

Accused of murdering her husband of five months when aged just 13, Maimuna Abdulmumini was sentenced to death by a court in Nigeria. After a legal battle lasting six years, lawyers from Avocats Sans Frontierees (ASF France) successfully worked to secure a reprieve, but her future remains uncertain.

Background

Maimuna Abdulmumini was 13 and had been married for five months when her husband was burned to death as he slept in a suspected arson attack. For the next eight years, her life was put on hold. She was arrested on suspicion of murder soon after the incident, but faced a two-year wait before any charges were brought against her. In 2012, six years after her husband passed away, she was sentenced to death for culpable homicide and has lived in a dirty, cramped cell shared with six other inmates in Katsina state prison in northern Nigeria ever since. When lawyers from ASF France - an organisation which, through its Saving Lives project, works with a network of pro-bono lawyers to fight injustice across the world - made contact with Maimuna for the first time in 2013,

Getting The Case To Court

Angela Uwandu is the head of ASF France’s Nigeria office. She explains that as Maimuna was only 13 at the time of the alleged crime, her sentence was against international human rights law which prohibits the death penalty for anyone under the age of 18. With a moratorium on capital punishment ended by the execution of four inmates in the summer of 2013, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan giving his tacit support to calls from regional governors for the death penalty to be used to ease demands on the over-populated prison service, it was clear that ASF France had to act fast to keep Maimuna alive.
In September 2013, Nigerian officials failed to strike down a constitutional provision which allows child brides to be considered adults in the country’s legal system. Dissenting senators argued that under Islamic law a woman is of age once she is married
calls from regional governors for the death penalty to be used to ease demands on the over-populated prison service, it was clear that ASF France had to act fast to keep Maimuna alive. “The case was identified by our support lawyer,” recalls Ms Uwandu. “Looking at the facts of the case she was tried for an offence she committed as a minor and there she was on death row with her baby. Maimuna is a rural woman who did not understand the gravity of what had happened. She has not been able to get any kind of education.”

Outcome

Without significant monitoring powers from the court, it is essentially up to employees from ASF France to provide the pressure to ensure that the wishes of the court are carried out. “We’re now working on the execution of the judgment,” says Ms Uwandu. “The ECOWAS Court was not able to order the release of Ms Abdulmumini and now we are working to make sure that this decision does lead to her release. This decision has been served to the Nigerian authorities and we’re now working on how best to secure her release. “The ECOWAS judgement acknowledges that the proceedings

Complexity

High70%

Conflict

Extream70%

Needs

  • Rullling death sentence

Issues

  • Child Support
  • Custody & Access
  • Property Division
  • Spousal Support

Approach

  • Litigation
  • PROCESS
  • Court Action

Approach

  • Litigation
  • PROCESS
  • Court Action

Process

  • Court Action

Result

  • 5 million naira Awarded
  • Ruled that the death sentence