UN rights office deeply concerned over Sudanese woman facing death for apostasy

16 May 2014

The United Nations human rights office today voiced deep concern about the situation of Meriam Ibrahim, the pregnant Christian Sudanese woman who was sentenced to 100 lashes and to death by a Sudanese court for apostasy and adultery.

On 11 May, Sudan’s Criminal Court supported the charges of apostasy and adultery against Ms. Ibrahim, nullified her marriage with a Christian man and gave her three days to ‘declare her return to Islam’, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Following her refusal yesterday to renounce her Christian faith, the 27-year-old was found guilty under the 1991 Criminal Act.

“We are concerned about the physical and mental well-being of Ms. Ibrahim, who is in her eighth month of pregnancy, and also of her 20-month-old son, who is detained with her at the Omdurman’s Women Prison near Khartoum, reportedly in harsh conditions,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

“We urge the Sudanese Government to meet its obligations under international law to protect the right to freedom of religion, which is enshrined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Sudan has ratified.”

Article 18 states that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in unity with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”

Mr. Colville noted that Sudan’s Constitution also refers to the complete freedom to worship a religion of one’s own choosing, and the rights of men and women to marry and build a family.

“The Government of Sudan should also guarantee the rights of Ms. Ibrahim and her son not to be deprived arbitrarily of their liberty, as well as their right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal, in accordance with the Covenant,” he stated.

Adultery, he added, should not be classified as a criminal offence nor be punishable by imprisonment, flogging or sentence of death. The criminalization of, and application of the death penalty for, consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, to equality and non-discrimination, freedom from torture and ill-treatment, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.


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