The UN said Friday it was “acutely concerned” for a teenager sentenced to death in Sudan for killing her rapist husband, warning her trial did not appear to have been fair.
Noura Hussein, 19, received the sentence last week for the “intentional murder” of the man her father had forced her to marry and who she said raped her.
“Discrimination and violence, including sexual violence, against women and girls in Sudan has been brought into stark focus” with this case, UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.
“We have received information that Hussein’s forced marriage, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence against her were not taken into account by the court as evidence to mitigate the sentence, and that the most stringent guarantees of a fair trial and due process were not fulfilled in this case,” she said.
Hussein’s case has triggered outrage, with activists launching a campaign called “Justice For Noura” and the United Nations’ women’s agency appealing for clemency.
Rights group Amnesty International says Hussein was forcibly married at the age of 16, and that when she refused to consummate the marriage, her husband invited two of his brothers and a male cousin to help him rape her.
When he tried to rape her a second time, she stabbed him to death, said Amnesty. Sudanese law allows children above 10 to be married.
UN ‘acuetely concerned’
Shamdasani warned that since Hussein’s case had drawn international attention, the UN rights office had become “acutely concerned about her safety and that of her lawyer and other supporters.”
“We urge the authorities to ensure full protection for Hussein’s physical and psychological integrity during her detention, as well as full respect for her rights to a fair trial and appeal,” she said.
She pointed out that in trials where capital punishment is at stake, “scrupulous respect for fair trial guarantees is particularly crucial.”
“We call on the authorities to fully take into consideration Hussein’s claim of self-defence against the attempt by the man to rape her,” she said, also questioning why Hussein was given just 15 days to appeal her death sentence.
She urged Sudan to amend its laws to criminalise domestic violence and marital rape, and stressed that it had the opportunity with Hussein’s case “to send a clear message that gender-based violence will not be tolerated in the country.”