Sudan denounced for stoning and amputation sentences

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afrol News, 2 February - In recent months, a pregnant southern Sudanese woman, Abok Alfa Akok, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, and at least six men have been sentenced to limb amputation for theft. The "emergency courts" issuing these sentences allegedly do not meet basic fair trial standards.

On 8 December 2001, a criminal court in Nyala, southern Darfur, sentenced to death by stoning eighteen-year-old Abok Alfa Akok, a Christian woman from the Dinka tribe, after finding her guilty of adultery. Ms. Akok was pregnant at the time of her conviction. She did not have legal representation during the trial. 

The trial was conducted in Arabic, which is not her language, and there was no translation of the proceedings to ensure that she understood fully the case against her. The man with whom she allegedly had sex was not tried, because the court lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute him. The case is now on appeal. 

The US based group Human Rights Watch had called upon the Sudanese government to protect Ms. Akok from the "arbitrary and unacceptable punishment" against her. "The fact that only the woman has been tried for the crime of adultery particularly suggests discriminatory application of this harsh law," said Jemera Rone, Sudan researcher for the group. 

Since December 2001 at least six men in the states of Northern and Southern Darfur have been sentenced to limb amputations for crimes such as robbery and possession of weapons, according to information Rone had gathered. 

On 12 December 2001, an emergency tribunal in Nyala, Southern Darfur convicted Abdu Ismail Tong and Yousif Yaow Mombai of stealing three million Sudanese pounds (approximately US$ 1160). They confessed while in police custody, but later denied the crime, raising serious concern about the possibility of confession under duress. They were not allowed to be represented by advocates during their trial, and the court sentenced them to amputation of the right hand. 

Mohamed Adam Yahya and Ahmed Suleiman Mohamed, convicted of armed robbery on 25 December 2001, met even harsher reactions. The emergency tribunal in Alfahir City in Darfur sentenced them to amputation of the right hand followed by death by hanging.

Two days later, Adam Ibrahim Osman and Abd Allaha Ismail Ibrahim from the town of Um Kadada were sentenced to cross amputation, i.e., amputation of the right hand and left foot. The emergency court convicted them of banditry and possession of unlicensed weapons. 

All of these sentences were issued by emergency courts composed of one civil judge and two military judges. The accused are not allowed legal representation and are allowed only a week to appeal to the district chief justice. In May 2001, these courts reportedly started to function in Southern and Northern Darfur states, where the six men described above were convicted and sentenced. 

These emergency tribunals were established in Sudan in 2001 under the state of emergency to deal summarily with crimes such as armed robbery, murder, and smuggling of weapons. Human Rights Watch claims "Sudan's justice system is handing down barbaric punishments and the tribunals do not meet basic fair trial standards, as they restrict legal representation and appeals. 

- The emergency courts handing out these drastic penalties do not allow the accused to have a lawyer or advocate, even though so much is at stake, said Jemera Rone. "Limb amputation mutilates the convicted person, and disables from most gainful employment." 

- These recent sentences from the Sudan judicial system are nothing short of inhumane, said Rone. "Imposing the death penalty in Arabic on this young woman who does not understand Arabic well constitutes a denial of her most fundamental human rights, and the amputation of hands and feet is a brutal punishment that disables permanently." 

Human Rights Watch has sent a letter to Sudan's president condemning these punishments and strongly urging that the sentences not be carried out. The group called on the Sudanese government to monitor all courts in Sudan to ensure accordance with international human rights law and the rule of law.

Sources: Based on HRW and afrol archives

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