UN: Sudan trouser case violates international law

The office of the United Nations human rights chief on Tuesday said Sudan’s sentencing of a female journalist for wearing trousers breached international law and exemplified the discrimination faced by women there.

“Lubna Hussein’s case is, in our view, emblematic of a wider pattern of ... application of discriminatory laws against women in Sudan,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The comments come a day after Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein was sent to jail after refusing to pay a $200 fine imposed for wearing trousers deemed “indecent” by a Sudanese court.

Hussein, who has worked as a United Nations press officer and for a left-wing newspaper, was arrested along with 12 other trouser-wearing women in a Khartoum restaurant in July for violating decency laws governing dress.

Ten of the women arrested in July on the indecent dress charge, including Christians, were subsequently summoned by the police and each given 10 lashes.

“The criminal code does not define what constitutes indecent dress and leaves wide discretion to police officers, raising concerns that the arrests had been conducted arbitrarily,” said Colville.

He added that the case violated international law on fair trials, as well as on freedom from arbitrary arrests.

“The arrest and conviction of Ms Hussein and other women is a violation of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a state party. It also runs up against article 9 of the covenant as well, which deals with freedom from arbitrary arrests.”

While Hussein was represented by lawyers from the local UN mission, the other women arrested with her “had a total lack of legal representation, including inadequate time to prepare their defence”, said Colville.

“There was also an absence of review of the sentence of the other [women] and the judgement of flogging was carried out immediately,” he added.—AFP

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