Sudan, 01 August 2014: After nearly 18 months of incarceration in Omdurman Women’s Prison in Khartoum on charges of apostasy and adultery, Meriam Ibrahim has been released and arrived safely in the United States with her family to reside in the adopted hometown of her husband in New Hampshire.
SIHA was part of a broad coalition of human rights agencies across the globe that lobbied for Meriam’s release and exposed the charges levied against her as baseless, cruel, and in violation both of her human rights and Sudan’s constitutional and international obligations to protect freedom of religious practice. In addition to providing statements, media advisories, and information on the case at the time of Meriam’s sentencing to death by hanging and the atrocious conditions of her imprisonment in Khartoum, SIHA also, with the help of our partners, provided direct material support to Meriam and her family and contributed important support to her legal defense team.
It is important that we recall at this time that the legal foundation permitting Meriam’s arrest and incarceration is still very much present in Sudan (most notably via the 1991 Criminal Act) and many other women are remain subject to the same codified persecution which Meriam suffered under. Sudanese citizens, women in particular, are the consistent target of criminalization for their personal behavior and choices based on the Criminal Act that was developed in 1991 according to a militant, extreme, and controversial interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence. The Criminal Act is of no relevance to the Sudanese Constitution or the values and culture of Sudanese people; in fact, the Criminal Act is in direct violation of the Sudanese Constitution. SIHA has argued consistently against the problematic and discriminatory nature of Sudan’s Criminal Act a a main enabler and impetus of victimizing women and girls which presents a serious threat to women’s lives and well being. Meriam Ibrahim was not the only ‘apostate’ or ‘adulterer’ imprisoned in Khartoum in recent memory; SIHA reported, for example, on a victim of gang rape imprisoned in Khartoum for ‘indecent acts’ less than six months ago, and the victim continues to suffer physically and psychologically due to the charge and subsequent punishment.
Thus, the release and resettlement of Meriam Ibrahim and her family, despite it being a victory for the broad international community of advocates that lobbied for her release and protection, does not demonstrate a closing of the book on a pattern of injustices within Sudan justice system. SIHA will continue urge the Government of Sudan and Sudan’s Ministry of Justice to initiate a reform of Sudan Criminal Act in line with the interest of the Sudanese citizens to serve their well being and potential potential, and protect their human rights.