SIHA STATEMENT, 15 MAY 2014, KHARTOUM: In a shocking decision that the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) strongly condemns, Meriam Ibrahim, the 27-year-old pregnant Sudanese women charged with apostasy and adultery, was given a sentence today of 100 lashings and execution by hanging at the Haj Yousif Court Complex in Khartoum. In explaining the sentence, the deciding judge, Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa, commented to the defendant, whom SIHA has been publically and confidentially advocating for since February, that, ‘We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death.’ In a show of great bravery given that the charge of apostasy, which carries the death penalty, hinges on Meriam’s claim that she is in fact a Christian, Meriam responded to the judge, ‘I am a Christian and never committed apostasy.’
In line with today’s sentencing, Meriam will remain incarcerated at Omdurman Women’s Prison along with her 20-month-old child until giving birth to the child she is currently pregnant with, which is due to be born within one month. While in Sudanese custody, Meriam has been denied regular contact with legal assistance providers as well as refused medical care, and has suffered beatings, denial of food, and aggressive interrogations. After giving birth next month, the Sudanese Criminal Code (1991) mandates that Meriam be permitted, while incarcerated, to breast feed the newborn child for a period of two years; after two years have passed, the flogging and execution will occur. Thus, Meriam is facing another two years of prison with the same treatment as has been the case up to this point, a reality that is faced as well by her innocent 20-month-old child, forced by Sudanese officials to remain incarcerated with Meriam due to the fact that Meriam’s husband is non-Muslim, and therefore not ‘suitable’ for custody of his own child.
In response to the verdict, SIHA’s Regional Director, Hala ┘ÉAlKarib, commented that, ‘This is a dark and shameful day for Sudan’s justice system, which has clearly surrendered its mandate to the forces of terror and oppression. As women activists and rights defenders, SIHA supports Meriam’s courage and solid stance. Her honesty and integrity today has in many ways defeated her oppressors. Regardless of the next steps which will be taken, Meriam has exposed the weakness and the discriminatory nature of Sudan legal system and SIHA will continue to be an active participant in advocating on her behalf.’
Following SIHA’s initial statement on the case and the beginning of a comprehensive advocacy campaign on her behalf, human rights defenders, media outlets, and international institutions around the world have joined efforts to ensure that the Department of Justice in Sudan is aware that the world is watching and not standing still in the face of this abhorrent denial of justice for Meriam Ibrahim and her family. SIHA remains committed to fight for justice for Meriam Ibrahim, and calls on human rights defenders and their organizations, international institutions, and the media to demand an immediate and unconditional release of Meriam Ibrahim from Sudanese custody and the dropping of the charges of adultery and apostasy, both of which are completely unfounded.
The Strategic initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a coalition of over 80 women’s civil society organisations from across the Horn countries inclusive of Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Somaliland, Eritrea and Uganda. The organisation works on women’s access to justice, promoting and protecting women’s human rights, activating women’s political participation and supporting economic empowerment.