/ 14 May 2018

Sudan death sentence ruling sparks international campaign

Petitions from change.org and avaaz.org have gone viral on social media platforms.
Petitions from change.org and avaaz.org have gone viral on social media platforms.

The social media campaign #JusticeForNoura has gained traction after 19-year-old Noura Hussein was sentenced to death in Sudan on May 10 for killing her husband after he attempted to rape her.

The campaign has sparked a plethora of responses from human rights organisations and activists worldwide calling for action against this ruling. Petitions from change.org and avaaz.org have gone viral on social media platforms, calling for the Sudanese government to reverse the sentence and retry Hussein. The campaigns have collectively gained more than 300 000 total signatures in support .

According to human rights organisation Amnesty International, Hussein was 16 when her family forced her to contractually marry her cousin, Abdulrahman Mohamed Hammad. After the contract was signed, the aspiring teacher fled her home to a relative’s house to seek refuge for three years, according to Reuters. In April 2017, Hussein returned to her home after her father announced that the marriage had been revoked; however, the announcement was a trap.

Hussein was coerced into marrying Hammad, but after the ceremony the young woman refused to consummate the marriage. After her refusal, Hammad, along with several of his male relatives, restrained Hussein and he raped her.

On May 2 2017, Hussein’s husband attempted to rape her again and in what she says was self defense, Hussein killed him by stabbing him with a knife. Hussein escaped to her family home where her father turned her over to police forces. Hussein was held at Omdurman Women’s Prison after her arrest.

In late April 2018, Hussein was found guilty of premeditated murder under Sharia law, according the Washington Post. If a person is found guilty under this law, the convict is sentenced to either a fine or a death penalty. Since marital rape and forced child marriage are not illegal in Sudan, evidence regarding these circumstances could not be used in court.

According to a Washington Post interview with a member of the social justice organisation Afrika Youth Movement, “The deceased individual’s family chooses the punishment, demanding either a pardon, monetary compensation or a death sentence.” In Noura’s case, Hammad’s family chose execution, thus on May 10, Hussein was sentenced to death.

Several human rights organisations including Amnesty International, Afrika Youth Movement and Equality Now are also calling for attention to the case. In a letter to Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Ahmad al- Bashir, Equality Now writes, “criminalisation of Noura for defending herself from assault and in particular a death sentence would violate her rights under the Sudanese Constitution and international law,” pointing out that the ruling violated Articles 14 and 15 of their constitution.

The organisation also “respectfully urged” the president drop all criminal charges against Noura, to review “penal codes” on rape and to create laws to prevent sexual violence against women and children in Sudan.

Amnesty International is also calling for the ruling to be overturned, “Noura Hussein is a victim and the sentence against her is an intolerable act of cruelty … the Sudanese authorities must quash this grossly unfair sentence and ensure that Noura gets a fair re-trial that takes into account her mitigating circumstances” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa Seif Magango.

Sudan is one of the worst countries for women in regards to equal rights. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Sudan is ranked 165 out of 188 on the Gender Development Index (GDI) scale. The GDI is determined by gender inequalities measured by health, education and command over economic resources. Additionally, in Sudan a girl can marry as young as 10 years old.