Nigeria: Hauwa Ibrahim wins top human rights award

Yale University
Nigerian lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim, who was instrumental in defending Amina Lawal in 2003, has been awarded the 2005 Sakharov Prize.
One of the top defenders of women’s rights in Nigeria, Ibrahim has successfully challenged numerous charges and convictions under strict Islamic Sharia law in her country.
Hauwa Ibrahim, a Nigerian human rights lawyer who is currently at Yale as a World Fellow, was among three joint winners of the European Parliament’s top human rights award.

A firm proponent of the rule of law, she has argued that Sharia law requires the courts to respect the procedural and substantive rights guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution. Ibrahim’s professional accomplishments also include election as the first female National Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association in 2000 and authorship of the first draft of the constitution for the Pan African Lawyers Union in 2002. Ibrahim, 38, has served as a consultant to the United Nations Development Program, the European Union and the NGO Lawyers without Borders.

“Ibrahim has been defending women who face being stoned to death for adultery and young people who face amputation for theft under Islamic sharia law,” the Parliament said in a statement.

“We are honored that 2005 Yale World Fellow Hauwa Ibrahim’s work to promote women’s rights in Nigeria has been recognized on the global scale with the award of the Sakharov Prize,” said Daniel C. Esty, director of the Yale World Fellows Program.

Ibrahim shared the prize with the Cuban protest group "Damas de Blanco" (Women in White) and Reporters Without Borders, an organization that campaigns worldwide for freedom of the press.

The Sakharov Prize recognizes achievement in the field of human rights, protecting minorities, defense of international cooperation or the development of democracy and the rule of law.

The prize, named after a former Soviet dissident, is awarded annually to the person or group that the assembly considers has contributed significantly to human rights. Czech reformer Alexander Dubcek, South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan are among previous recipients of the prize, which was first awarded in 1988.

The three winners, who will share the 50,000-euro prize money, were chosen by the presidents of all the political groups in the European Parliament.

The Yale World Fellows Program brings 16 to 18 highly accomplished men and women from a diversity of backgrounds and nations to the University each year. The purpose of the program is to building a global network of emerging leaders and to broaden international understanding at Yale. World Fellows spend a rigorous semester exploring critical issues through a program that offers individualized academic enrichment and leadership training with the full resources of Yale at their disposal.

Copyright © 2005, Yale University

To read more about her input in the case of Amina Lawal, see: