Legal Reform After The Quashing Of Noura Hussein’s Death Sentence?

This week, an appeals court in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, decided to overturn Noura Hussein’s death sentence and replace it with a five-year prison term and ordered the family to pay a fine to the husband’s family. She was sentenced for stabbing her husband as he tried to rape her a second time, with the help of other two relatvies, last year. On 10 May, 2018, Noura Hussein was initially sentenced to death, when an online campaign, #JusticeforNoura, spread across the world. The decision represents a victory for human rights advocates prompting international outrage. According to Amnesty International, this must be a catalyst for a legal review in Sudan.

Although human rights advocates such as Amnesty International celebrate that Hussein will not be hanged, they are still critical about the disproportionate punishment. Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa said that “while the quashing of this death sentence is hugely welcome news, it must now lead to a legal review to ensure that Noura Hussein is the last person to go through this ordeal…Noura Hussein was the victim of a brutal attack by her husband and five years’ imprisonment for acting in self-defence is a disproportionate punishment.”

Since May 2017, Noura Hussein has been held in the Omdurman Women’s Prison. After she stabbed her husband, she fled to her family home, where her father informed the police and opened a case against her. A medical examination found that she suffered different injuries including bites and scratches. The trial held in July 2017 has been criticized for applying an outdated law which did not recognize marital rape. The judge charged Noura Hussein under the Criminal Act (1991) and found her guilty of intentional murder at the Central Criminal Court of Omdurman.

Noura Hussein had to marry Abdulrahman Mohamed Hammad against her will when she was 16-years-old. The first part of the marriage involved the creation and signage of the contract between her father and Abdulrahman. The second part of the marriage took place in April 2017, when she had to move to Abdulrahman’s home after having completed high school. As she refused to consummate the marrige, Abdulrahman sought the help of two brothers and a male cousin to rape her.

“His uncle held me down by my legs and each of the other two held down my arms,” she said, referring to her husband’s cousins. “He stripped and had me while I wept and screamed. Finally, they left the room. I was bleeding, I slept naked.” When he tried to rape her again the next day, she stabbed him in self-defense.

This incredible story has drawn attention to marital rape and child marriage in Sudan, where neither practice is considered a crime. The Sudanese law allows a child over the age of 10 to marry. According to a report by the UNICEF last year, every third Sudanese girl is married before she turns 18. There is a need that victims are recognized as such and not penalized for crimes. This case is indeed a catalyst for a legal review in Sudan.