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UN rights office write to Sudan over threats against journalist

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The headquarters of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva

April 30, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - The United Nations human rights office in Geneva has asked Sudanese government to clarify the alleged threats against a female journalist by hard-line Islamists who have accused her of “insulting Islam” in one of her columns.

Last February, a radical preacher Mohamed Ali al-Gazouli accused Shamael al-Nur, a journalist and columnist at the independent Al-Tayyar newspaper, of apostasy and called on worshipers to protect their religion.

Also, al-Tayeb Mustafa, the leader of the far-right Just Peace Forum (JPF), and uncle of President Omer al-Bashir called to prevent the journalist and "her likes of worms" from corrupting the virtues of the country.

Sudan’s Permanent Representative to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva Mustafa Osman Ismail received on 28 March a letter from the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression on the accusation of apostasy against the journalist.

"In this connection, we like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we received concerning threats against Ms Shamael al-Nur, a journalist by radical Islamists," says the letter.

The letter inquired whether judicial proceedings or actions have been carried out to limit the impact of fundamentalists and any other measures to take legal provisions on the criminalization of apostasy, consistent with international human rights law.

Moreover, the OHCHR urged the government to take all the needed measures to restrain and prevent the alleged violations and to conduct an immediate investigation into the threats faced by the journalist.

The letter, seen by Sudan Tribune pointed to al-Gazouli’s hostile sermons against al-Nur and a case filed against her accusing of heresy and blasphemy. It further stressed that "law limiting the right of to freedom of expression must themselves be compatible with the (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) ICCPR".

"We stress that the protection of religion itself does not and therefore cannot be used to limit the right to freedom of expression," said the letter pointing that "Criminalization of blasphemy is incompatible with the ICCPR. Furthermore, it is incompatible with article 19 to prevent or punish commentary on religious doctrine or tenets of faith.".

Following, the hostile campaign last February, al-Nur filed two complaints against Mustafa accusing him of defamation and inciting religious extremist groups against her.

Reached by Sudan tribune, al-Nur said her complaint to the National Council for Press and Publications didn’t take any decision on it but it examined a complaint from Mustafa against her newspaper and blamed it for the publication of the article.

Regarding her complaint to the police, she was recently being advised that the case had been referred to the court but she didn’t receive any notification.

She further said that the uncle of President al-Bashir has lodged a complaint accusing her of defamation of religion offence.

On February 2017, al-Nur published an option article titled the "The Virtue Mania" where she said that the Islamic regimes are more preoccupied with virtue, female clothing, appearance and behaviour issues than health and education issues

She said that less than 3% of the national budget is allocated to health care and education adding "It is easy to drop spending on health in the state budget, but it remains very difficult to (grant) the Ministry of Health the right to distribute condoms," she wrote on, denouncing the "virtue’s mania" of Islamic groups.

(ST)

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