On 10 July 2012, Judge Imad Shamoun of Al-Nasir Criminal Court in Khartoum sentenced Laila Ibrahim Issa Jamool a 23 year old woman to death by stoning for adultery (Zina) under Article 146 of the Sudanese Penal Code 1991.
Mrs. Jamool was estranged from her husband 18 months after their marriage in 2008 following which she returned to her family home. Subsequent to the birth of her now six-month old child, in March 2012, her husband charged her with adultery (Zina). Over the past 12 months, Mrs. Jamool and her husband have been undergoing a divorce in court. And at the same time as these divorce proceedings have been taking place, her husband has also filed a case for her to be returned to his home by power of legal force (known as Baitaltaa, in line with the militant application of Islamic Sharia Law). Further to this, Mrs. Jamool’s husband has been involved in lengthy negotiations with her family about reparations for the dowry payments he made to them during the wedding procedures.
Critically, all of this has been taking place in absence of legal representation for Mrs. Jamool and after only three court sessions, inclusive of a referral to a higher court than that of first instance, Mrs. Jamool was sentenced to death by stoning. As a result, Mrs. Jamool, is now being detained, shackled at the ankles with her six-month old baby at her side. The child is understood to be in poor health and Mrs. Jamool is in need of psycho-social support for her distress.
The case is problematic in that under local and international law, death sentences cannot be furnished upon those who are not legally represented or from unfair trial. The lack of legal representation is a clear violation of due process and furthermore, violates Article 34 (6) of the interim constitution of Sudan, which states that: “any accused person has the right to defend himself/herself in person or through a lawyer of his/her own choice and to have legal aid assigned to him/her by the State where he/she is unable to defend himself/herself in serious offences,” as well as article 135 of Sudan’s Criminal procedure code, which stipulates that a defendant is entitled to legal representation in any criminal case that carries a sentence of 10 years or greater, imprisonment, amputation or death.
This case is the second in recent months; Intisar Sharif Abdullah was sentenced to death by stoning in April this year after confessing to adultery (Zina) after brutal beatings by her own brother. She too lacked legal representation. Mrs. Abdullah’s case was eventually concluded following a formal legal appeal and international public outcry. A re-trial was held and under article 141 of the Criminal Procedures Act and Ms Abdullah was released due to “lack of evidence”.
Sudan is one of the few countries to still have legal provisions to apply the death penalty for adultery, although its application has not been known in recent years.
Hala Alkarib, Director of The Strategic initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, in response to this case stated:
“SIHA condemns all forms of corporal punishment, but especially as a result of the criminalization of personal behavioures.” “The victimization of women as the result of complex socio-economic and
cultural relationships must be stopped and Sudan must urgently adopt measure and laws that protect and respect the dignity and the human rights of Sudanese women”
“The criminalization of Sudanese women within the current legal framework subjects women to systematic and severe forms of violence and ultimately undermines their humanity and that of the society at large.”
SIHA demands the immediate and unconditional release of Mrs. Jamool and her child and an end to the criminalization of women for adultery.
We call upon the Sudan Ministry of Justice and other relevant Sudanese government bodies to investigate this case and overturn the judgment.
We further call upon the international human rights community, The African Union, The Arab League, and United Nations and to oppose this practice and leverage its influence to prevent this act of brutality.
- Stoning is classed as a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under the United Nations Convention on Torture (1984)
- The method of execution by stoning in particular is a violation of the prohibition of torture as contained in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International DHR, the ICCPR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Sudan is a signatory.
- The UN Human Rights Committee, which is the international body overseeing the implementation of the ICCPR, has called for the abolition in law of the penalty of death by stoning. It urged all states that still maintain the death penalty “to ensure that any application of particularly cruel or inhuman means of execution, such as stoning, be stopped immediately”.
- Greater information on Sudan’s discriminatory laws can be found in SIHA’s Beyond Trousers
- The Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty, adopted by the UN Economic and Social Council in 1984, state that the death penalty shall not be carried out on new mothers. Resolution 2005/59 of the UN Commission on Human Rights also urges states that retain the death penalty to exclude mothers with dependent infants from capital punishment. In addition, Article 36(3) of the 2005 Interim Constitution of Sudan states: “No death penalty shall be executed upon pregnant or lactating women, save after two years of lactation.”
- Details of Ms Intisar Sharif Abdullah’s case can be found here and here