Pregnant Sudanese Woman Faces Death Sentence for Marrying Christian
Meriam, age 27, was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013 after a family member reportedly claimed that she was committing adultery because of her marriage to a Christian South Sudanese man. Under Sharia law as practiced in Sudan, a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim man, and any such marriage is considered adultery.
The court added the charge of apostasy (renouncing a religion) in February 2014 when Meriam asserted that she was a Christian and not a Muslim. According to Meriam, she was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because her father, a Muslim, was absent during her childhood.
Meriam was convicted of adultery and apostasy by a court in Khartoum on May 11. On May 15 she was sentenced to 100 lashes for committing adultery and death by hanging for apostasy after she refused to renounce her Christian faith. Meriam is eight months pregnant and remains in detention with her 20-month-old son. The death sentence will not be carried out until two years after the birth of her child.
Meriam is a prisoner of conscience, convicted solely because of her religious beliefs and identity—she should be released immediately and unconditionally. Criminalizing adultery violates her rights to freedom of expression and association. The application of Sudan’s adultery law discriminates against women in its enforcement. Criminalizing apostasy violates the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Flogging is considered torture and is therefore banned, as is the death penalty, the ultimate cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishment, which violates the right to life.
The Sudanese Criminal Code formally includes Shari’a law, including article 126, which states that “(1) Whoever propagates the renunciation of Islam or publicly renounces it by explicit words or an act of definitive indication is said to commit the offense of Riddah (apostasy). (2) Whoever commits apostasy shall be asked to repent within a period decided by the court and if he insisted on his apostasy and was not a new convert he shall be punished with death. (3) Punishment for apostasy lapses if the apostate refrained from apostasy before the execution”. Article 146 on the Penalty for Adultery, states that “(1) Whoever commits the offence of adultery shall be punished with: (a) execution, by lapidation [stoning], where the offender is married; (b) one hundred lashes, where the offender is not married.
There have been no known cases of people executed for apostasy in Sudan since the 1991 Criminal Code was enacted, but many have had their charges dropped or convictions overturned after recanting their faith. Over the years, Amnesty International has documented many cases of people sentenced to flogging in Sudan.
In 2013, at least 21 executions were reported in Sudan. At least 29 death sentences were reported, but the real figure is believed to be over 100. The Sudanese authorities continued to use the death penalty to oppress real or perceived activists of political opposition groups. In July, the Sudan Armed Forces Act of 2007 was amended to allow for the prosecution of civilians in military courts for various crimes under Sudan’s 1991 military code, some of which carry the death penalty.