Amal, a young woman sentenced to stoning in Sudan

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Paris, 19 October 2022. On 26 June 2022, the Kosti Criminal Court in White Nile State, Sudan, sentenced Amal [1], a 20-year-old woman, to death by stoning, after she was found guilty of violating article 146 (2) (adultery) of the Sudanese Penal Code 1991. The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM), International Federation for Human rights (FIDH), and its partners - Darfur Women Action Group USA, Nora organisation for combatting violence against women’s and girls, No to Women’s Oppression, REDRESS, Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA Network) and Sudanese Women Rights Action (SuWRA) - call on Sudanese authorities to overturn the sentence and guarantee Amal an immediate and unconditional release.

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The application of the death penalty by stoning for the crime of adultery (zina) is a grave violation of international law, including the right to life and the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, as set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) to which Sudan is a State Party.

Most cases of adultery in Sudan are issued against women, highlighting the discriminatory application of Sudan’s criminal legislation, in violation of international law which guarantees equality before the law and non-discrimination based on gender.
Amal is a 20-year-old Sudanese woman, living in White Nile State. After separating from her husband, she had reluctantly moved back to her family’s home. ACJPS has been reliably informed that she was interrogated by a police investigator who allegedly illegally obtained a confession from her. He did not inform Amal that the information she shared during her interrogation would be used as evidence against her during her trial. [2]

Amal’s trial was also tainted with several irregularities. For example, her trial commenced without a formal complaint from the police in Kotsi. Amal was also denied legal representation at the trial phase, despite the guarantees to representation set out under Article 135(3) of the Sudanese Criminal Procedure Code 1991, which provides that a defendant is entitled to legal representation in any criminal case that carries a punishment of 10 years or more imprisonment, amputation, or death. Since the handing down of a decision by the Kosti Criminal Court, authorities have failed to refer the file to the high court for approval.

Amal’s lawyer has appealed her case to the higher court. In the last 10 years, Sudan witnessed several cases similar to hers where the sentences were overturned when they were appealed.

The signatory organisations condemn the use of the death penalty in all cases. Amal’s case highlights the urgent need for the authorities of Sudan to issue an immediate moratorium on all executions in the country with a view to abolishing the death penalty in law and to revise all legislation that has the purpose or effect of discriminating women.

Legal background on the death penalty under article 146 in Sudan

Article 146 of the Sudanese criminal law is built on Sharia laws. Married women charged with adultery are sentenced to death by stoning, while unmarried women are punished by 100 lashes. During the transitional period, some legal reforms were passed. Though the transitional government banned corporal punishments for many crimes, the Sharia laws related to adultery remained unchanged.

Article 6 of the ICCPR stipulates that, "sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes", while the Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Committee have interpreted the Article 1 prohibition of torture under the UNCAT as extending to corporal punishments such as stoning. It is also recognised under international law that threats of torture can amount to torture. In Amal’s case, her conviction and sentencing to death by stoning leaves Amal uncertain about her future, causing severe anguish and mental suffering which can constitute by itself torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Background information

It has been ten years since a woman was last sentenced to be stoned to death in Sudan.

Since the military coup on October 25th, 2021, military authorities have fully reseized power in Sudan, exercising control over all branches including over the justice system. Unfair and politicised trials are the norm in all States of Sudan. The fight against impunity is at its lowest with preparators of past violations, notably the security forces, being in power. Lawyers are constantly the target of attacks and are being threatened by authorities. Despite strong demand for accountability, victims are left with no judicial avenue within Sudan.

The situation is particularly dire for women who are subjected to systemic violence across the country. In the past ten months, at least 13 cases of sexual and gender-based violence committed by the security forces were reported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) during the protests in Khartoum on 19 December 2021 as well as concerning reports of sexual harassment and intimidation targeting women participating in the sit-ins. From May to August 2022, United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission In Sudan (UNITAMS) reported that sexual and gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, accounted for 35 victims (22 women and 13 girls) throughout Sudan. None of the survivors received justice, remedy, or any reparation. In a culture dominated by the concept of shame and with no access to justice, silence is the preferred option.
Setbacks to women’s rights are being witnessed all over Sudan. From 1996 up to 2019, the Khartoum State Public Order Law gave the police extensive discretionary powers to arrest people and targeted women, particularly. Many women were beaten and arrested for their dress or for vending in the streets. Abolished during the transition, authorities have now issued in August 2022 a decision to reinstall the law under a new name, the Community Police Service. Women and girls’ are being once again the target of oppressive laws that violate freedoms and human rights.

Our organisations urge Sudanese authorities, particularly the Sovereign Council and Ministry of Justice to:
 Ensure that the sentence of death by stoning (lapidation) imposed against Amal on 26 June 2022 is suspended, and is not carried out irrespective of the final outcome of the case;
 Ensure that Amal receives adequate medical care and psychosocial support for any harms suffered during her detention;
 Immediately remove the penalty of stoning in article 146(2) from Sudan Penal Code and abolish the death penalty as a punishment under Sudan’s legal system;
 Prioritise legal and institutional reforms, including by undertaking the comprehensive legal mapping necessary to amend Sudan’s laws to ensure the absolute prohibition of torture, including judicial corporal punishment.

We have alerted the petition platform Avaaz who has launched a petition on this case. Help Amal by signing the petition and voice your indignation to the Sudanese authorities:

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