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Woman sentenced to death by stoning for first time in a decade

A Sudanese woman has been sentenced to death by stoning in the country’s first known case in almost a decade after she allegedly confessed to cheating on her husband.

20-year-old Maryam Alsyed Tiyrab had separated from her husband and moved back to her family home before she was interrogated and arrested by police in Sudan’s White Nile state last month—who allegedly obtained an illegal confession from her. Tiyrab was then sentenced by the Kosti Criminal Court on 26 June 2022, where she was found guilty of violating Sudan’s adultery laws.

As noted by the Sudan Tribune, women who are found guilty of adultery in the country are considered wrong on social, religious, moral and legal grounds. “Under Islamic law, Hudud crimes—including apostasy, theft, highway robbery, adultery, slander, and drinking alcohol—carry penalties that include the amputation of hands and feet, flogging, and death,” the publication added.

Tiyrab was also denied legal representation and her trial was commenced without obtaining a formal complaint from the police—which, according to human rights groups, is “irregular.”

As of today, the 20-year-old is planning to appeal against the decision with hopes that the High Court will strike down the ruling. Although the majority of stoning sentences in the past (which are predominantly against women) have been overturned in the High Court, the judgement has ignited fears that Sudan is rolling back women’s rights after the country’s army seized power in a military coup back in October 2021.

The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), based in Uganda, additionally noted how the sentence violated domestic and international law and called for Tiyrab’s “immediate and unconditional release.”

“The application of the death penalty by stoning for the crime of adultery is a grave violation of international law, including the right to life and the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” the centre said in a statement, as initially reported by The Guardian.

Jehanne Henry, a human rights lawyer, also outlined that the sentence “shows that harsh sharia laws [and] penalties are still being implemented in Sudan.”

“The death by stoning case is a reminder that the criminal law reforms during the transition [government] were not complete, and that such harsh, archaic punishments are still officially on the books,” Henry told the publication.

Although flogging was outlawed in 2020, it is still being handed out as a punishment despite a decrease in cases. Furthermore, at least 15 countries still practice stoning—either legally or illegally in tribal areas—with human rights groups highlighting Somalia as handing down the capital punishment most frequently.

The last time a woman in Sudan was sentenced to stoning for adultery was back in 2013 but the sentence was overturned. On 1 July 2022, Reuters also reported about an Islamic sharia court in Nigeria that sentenced three men to death by stoning after convicting them on charges of “engaging in homosexuality.”