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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4948

Senator Stott Despoja asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 30 August 2002:

(1) What measures, if any, is the Government taking to prevent the planned execution of Nigerian woman, Ms Amina Lawal, a sentence passed for having a child outside marriage.

(2) Is the Minister aware that as of 29 August 2002, more than 100 000 people have signed an online open letter to the President of Nigeria calling for this sentence to be overturned, and for the human rights of the citizens of Nigeria to be respected.

(3) Is the Government working with the Nigerian Government in any way to end the barbaric execution process of death by stoning.

Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) On 29 August 2002, I (Downer) met with the Nigerian High Commissioner, Dr Rufai Soule, and on 6 September the Prime Minister wrote to Nigerian President Obasanjo. Both of these representations were used to convey the deep concern of the Australian Government and people at the sentencing to death by stoning of Amina Lawal, to emphasise that the Australian Government considered death by stoning a cruel, inhumane and degrading practice, and to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to ensure that action is taken to prevent the violation of international human rights standards that the execution of this sentence would represent.

(2) I am aware of the widespread public expressions of concern both in Australia and in the international community that this sentence has generated. The Government has added its voice to this chorus by making strong statements opposing the sentence in the Australian and international media, and to the Nigerian authorities.

(3) Australia has worked consistently through multilateral fora, as well as through bilateral channels, to address the question of capital punishment, including with Nigeria. Australia has been a co-sponsor of Resolutions at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations General Assembly calling for the abolition of the death penalty. By keeping its views before the Nigerian Government through regular bilateral representations, Australia helps to ensure that Nigerian leaders remain aware of international opposition to practices which breach internationally accepted human rights standards.