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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.”

China sentences US citizen to death

A Chinese court sentenced American citizen Shadeed Abdulmateen to death on Thursday 21 April for allegedly murdering his former girlfriend, a 21-year-old Chinese woman surnamed Chen, according to Chinese state media.

After a disagreement over their breakup in June 2019, Abdulmateen, who taught at the Ningbo University of Technology (NBUT), arranged to meet and talk with Chen at a bus stop in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, before killing her with a “folding knife,” said the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court in its verdict.

According to CNN, by looking at public broadcaster CCTV, the court held that the defendant’s “premeditated revenge killing, stabbing and cutting Chen’s face and neck several times, resulting in her death, was motivated by vile motives, resolute intent and cruel means, and the circumstances of the crime were particularly bad and the consequences particularly serious, and should be punished according to law.”

As reported by Yahoo! News, a US State Department official said the situation was being monitored but refused to comment further in the interest of privacy.

In a 2020 review conducted by Amnesty International, China was found to be the world’s top executioner, but the country, itself, doesn’t actually disclose death penalty numbers. The review used information including official figures, judgements and media reports, alongside information from families and civil societies, in its findings.

Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, said in a statement at the time: “As the world focused on finding ways to protect lives from COVID-19, several governments showed a disturbing determination to resort to the death penalty and execute people no matter what.”

“The death penalty is an abhorrent punishment and pursuing executions in the middle of a pandemic further highlights its inherent cruelty,” Callamard continued.

Over the past decade, people from Uganda, South Korea, Japan and Kenya have received death sentences for drug crimes. In 2016, the Nigerian senate reportedly heard that 120 of its citizens were on death row in China. And in 2019, China handed down a death sentence to a Canadian citizen accused of smuggling drugs, sending shockwaves around the world.