Sudanese woman sentenced to stoning death over adultery claims

Posted on 1 June 2012


Intisar Sharif Abdallah tried without access to lawyer and is being detained with four-month-old baby, prompting outcry

David Smith in Johannesburg, Thursday 31 May 2012

A Sudanese woman in El Fasher. The country’s embassy in the UK claims rights groups are not interested in the welfare of women in Sudan. Photograph: AFP/Getty

A young mother found guilty of adultery in Sudan has been sentenced to death by stoning, prompting an outcry from human rights campaigners.

Intisar Sharif Abdallah was tried without access to a lawyer and is being detained with her four-month-old baby, according to Amnesty International.

Amnesty puts Abdallah’s age at 20; Human Rights Watch says she may be under 18.

Her family is appealing against the execution and it is unclear when it will be carried out.

Abdallah admitted to the charges only after her brother reportedly beat her. The conviction was based solely rests on this testimony. The man held with her reportedly denied the charges and was released.

Abdallah is said to be shackled by the legs and in psychological distress, unable to understand the nature of her sentence. Her other children are being cared for by family, who are of filing an appeal in Ombada. Jean-Baptiste Gallopin of Amnesty’s Sudan team said: “The case is emblematic of the failure of the Sudanese judicial system. Intisar Sharif Abdallah was tried without access to a lawyer or a translator, despite the fact that Arabic is not her native language. She was convicted solely based on a testimony she gave under duress. She’s being detained with her four-month old son, in a state of deep psychological distress. We call on the Sudanese authorities to stop the execution, overturn her stoning sentence and release her immediately and unconditionally.

“Stoning is a method of execution designed to increase the suffering of the victim, which means it is an extreme and cruel form of torture. International human rights law specifically prohibits death sentences resulting from unfair trial, as well as the execution of new mothers. In addition, we urge the government to have the best interest of Intisar’s child as their main consideration during the judicial process.”

Amnesty has urged its supporters to write to the Sudanese government and plead for the sentence to be quashed and for Abdallah to be set free.

The sentence was also criticised by Human Rights Watch. Daniel Bekele, its Africa director, said: “No one should be stoned to death and imposing this punishment on someone who may be a child is especially shocking. Sudan should immediately reform discriminatory laws and abolish the death penalty and all corporal punishments that violate the international treaty obligations it has promised to respect.”

Sudan is one of seven countries where death by stoning is a punishment. Judges in the country have imposed the sentence on several women in recent years, but courts have overturned them all on appeal. The vast majority of adultery cases and stoning sentences have been imposed on women.

“Sudan should uphold international and African standards,” Bekele said. “It should ban death by stoning and other corporal punishment, and revise laws that discriminate against women and girls.”

The Sudanese embassy in the UK criticised Amnesty’s attitude towards the country. Spokesman Khalid al-Mubarak said: “It is not interested in the welfare of our women because it never mentions the positive side. Our women have achieved equal pay for equal work. They occupy top jobs as ministers and members of the high court.”