18 May 2018
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Discrimination and violence, including sexual violence, against women and girls in Sudan has been brought into stark focus by the case of Noura Hussein Hammad Daoud, who last week was sentenced to death by a Sudanese Court. Hussein was convicted of fatally stabbing the man she was forced to marry, who subsequently allegedly raped her. We have received information that Hussein’s forced marriage, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence against her were not taken into account by the Court as evidence to mitigate the sentence, and that the most stringent guarantees of a fair trial and due process were not fulfilled in this case. Since her case has drawn international attention, we are acutely concerned about her safety and that of her lawyer and other supporters. We urge the authorities to ensure full protection for Hussein’s physical and psychological integrity during her detention, as well as full respect for her rights to a fair trial and appeal.
In trials leading to the imposition of the death penalty, scrupulous respect for fair trial guarantees is particularly crucial. The Special Rapporteur on summary executions has argued that the imposition of the death penalty against clear evidence of self-defence constitutes an arbitrary killing, particularly where women have been charged with murder when defending themselves. We call on the authorities to fully take into consideration Hussein’s claim of self-defence against the attempt by the man to rape her, after he had reportedly already raped her on a previous occasion with the help of three other people.
We understand that Hussein was given 15 days to appeal the decision. In such circumstances, the right to have a conviction and sentence be reviewed by a higher tribunal is of particular importance. It is essential that the principles of fair trial and due process be observed in the appeal phase of this case. A review that is limited to the formal or legal aspects of the conviction – without any consideration of the facts – is not sufficient under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Sudan has ratified.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the UN Human Rights Committee – two authoritative independent expert bodies on international human rights law – have expressed serious concern about the situation of women’s human rights in Sudan. In particular, the CRC has emphasized the negative impact of early and forced marriage on women and girls’ health, education and social development. In addition, despite the recent reform of the Criminal Code [article 149 of the Sudanese Criminal Act (1991) was amended in 2015], domestic violence and marital rape are still not criminalized. Better protection of women’s human rights and the criminalization of marital rape could help save many lives, and prevent terrible outcomes like that in Hussein’s case. We stand ready to work with the Government of Sudan on bringing such laws in line with human rights standards.
Hussein’s tragic case is an opportunity for Sudanese authorities to send a clear message that gender-based violence will not be tolerated in the country.
We will remain in contact with Sudanese authorities in relation to her case.