July 24, 2014 (STRASBOURG) – The European parliament has passed a resolution on the case of Sudan’s Meriam Yahia Ibrahim condemning her “degrading and inhumane” treatment and calling for urgent legal reforms that protect fundamental human rights and guard against discrimination on gender or religious grounds.
- Meriam Yehya Ibrahim pictured with her husband, Daniel Wani, on their wedding day in 2011
The Christian mother-of-two was sentenced to death in May for refusing to renounce her faith and return to Islam.
Significantly, the text also expresses the EU’s support for an inclusive negotiated solution to internal conflicts in Sudan and backs the efforts of civil society and opposition parties in promoting the peace process.
The resolution, adopted on 17 July, followed an earlier meeting between EU parliamentarians and a Sudanese delegation in Strasbourg, France organised by Marie-Christine Vergiat, an EU MP representing the Left Front.
The delegation, comprising of members of the rebel Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) and opposition parties, was attempting to garner EU support for their demands for a genuine comprehensive political solution to bring peace and restore democracy in the country.
Ibrahim’s case sparked international outrage, with a court of appeal subsequently overturning the decision. She is currently sheltering with her family at the US embassy in Khartoum after being detained by authorities while trying to leave Sudan with South Sudanese-issued travel documents.
EU legislators said Ibrahim’s case and treatment in detention was “emblematic of a worrying crackdown” by Sudanese authorities against minority and civil society groups in the country.
The resolution seen by Sudan Tribune calls on the Sudanese government to adhere to its obligations under international law and repeal any legal provisions that penalise or discriminate against people based their religious beliefs.
Legislators are demanding Sudan issue an immediate moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, strongly condemning the use of violence, threats, intimidation or penal sanctions to influence individual religious choice.
EU legislators have also demanded that the EU play a leading role in pushing for a strong resolution on Sudan at the next Human Rights Council session in September in order to address the serious and widespread human rights violations that continue to occur in Darfur and elsewhere largely with impunity.
The resolution further calls on the Sudanese government “to investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses, including killings, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, and rape and other sexual violence”.
Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissary present, concluded debate on the resolution by urging the Sudanese government to “release all political prisoners in order to create the political space urgently needed to bring peace and reconciliation”.
NARROW IN FOCUS
Vergiat, who pushed EU legislators to back the inclusive peace process, expressed disappointment with the resolution, describing it as narrow in focus and saying it had failed to frame the Ibrahim case in a broader context.
In a statement read in parliament and extended to Sudan Tribune, Vergiat said Sudan remained in the grip of one of the worst dictators in the world in the form of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir, with internal conflicts, mass displacement, humanitarian crises and violations to human rights remaining rampant.
She said Sudan had become a playground for many of the world’s major powers given its oil wealth and other natural resources, saying Western countries had a responsibility to act.
The Ibrahim case has helped shine a critical spotlight on Sudan’s judicial system, which came under unprecedented pressure to repeal the sentence.
The 27-year-old, who is married to a South Sudanese-born US citizen, was arrested late last year after being accused of adultery. Sudan’s Islamic Shari’a law doesn’t recognise a marriage between a Muslim woman and Christian man and thus any such relationship is deemed adulterous. The charge of apostasy – the act of renouncing one’s religion – was added later after Ibrahim asserted that she was not a Muslim.
She was subsequently convicted on both charges and sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging. Shortly after her conviction she gave birth to a baby girl in a prison clinic.
Despite her release from prison, Ibrahim’s future remains shrouded in uncertainty, with Sudanese authorities accusing her of using forged documents while trying to leave Sudan for the US a day after the appeals court ruling.
Earlier this month, her family filed a lawsuit to annul her marriage to her husband, Daniel Wani, although the case was recently dropped without explanation, and may now pave the way for Ibrahim and her family to seek asylum in the US.