Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all.
Ever since AI started campaigning in 1961, they have worked around the globe to stop the abuse of human rights.
Each year, the 10th of October is
dedicated to raising awareness through the “World day against the death penalty”.
In 2009, AI presented the work of former death row prisoner Arthur Judah Angel from 10th to 12th of October.
Biography of former death row prisoner in Nigeria
After nine years on death row in Nigeria’s Enugu prison, Arthur Judah Angel’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released five years later in 2000, after human rights activists who had been visiting him in prison appealed directly to the State Governor to grant a pardon.
Arthur awaited trial for more than two years before being sentenced to death for murder in 1986. He was transferred to the notorious death row in Enugu prison, southern Nigeria. There, he waited in a windowless, 2 x 2.5m cell for his turn to be executed. He shared that space – its cardboard box beds and single bucket toilet – with as many as 13 other death row inmates.
While on death row, Arthur witnessed numerous mass executions by firing squad or hanging. Groups of 25-50 people were executed on a monthly – sometimes weekly – basis especially under former military ruler General Ibrahim Babangida. Arthur also witnessed torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment on a regular basis. “It was like hell. We were undergoing both mental and physical torture,” he says. He believes he was spared from such treatment because his family often visited him. Some of those who were not so lucky died as a result of their injuries. Others died from heart attacks or infectious diseases which were rampant in the prison.
Arthur is one of many thousands of Nigerians whose lives have been threatened by the death penalty. He was lucky to be spared when scores have been executed over the years, mostly during the former military regimes. Despite a civilian government which came into power in 1999 under President Olusegun Obasanjo, the death penalty is still on the statute books, and is mandatory for certain criminal offences under new Sharia penal legislation introduced in 12 northern states since 1999.
His exhibition “On the Gallows” was displayed at the Nigerian National Museum in Lagos, in 2004. Arthur is a member of the Nigerian NGO Movement for Creative Drawing and is hoping to publish his manuscript “I Refuse to die”.