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Sudan’s reform of criminal law upholds religious discrimination, violates human rights: groups

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Group of No to Women's Repression Initiative protests outside the premises of the Sudanese cabinet in Khartoum on 26 July 2020 (ST photo)
August 14, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - A coalition of Sudanese civil society groups criticized the recent reform of the criminal law saying it upholds the same religious discriminatory bases established by the former Islamist regime and violates regional and international human rights conventions.

Sudanese transitional government on 11 July 2020 approved several amendments to the criminal law cancelling death penalty for apostasy, criminalizing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), allowing the consumption of alcohol for non-Muslims, and annulling flogging as punishment for gay sex.

In a statement issued this week, 29 Sudanese groups engaged in human rights advocacy, women rights, and the promotion of democracy slammed the law for preserving the same legal principles, inspired by a radical interpretation of the Islamic law.

The signatories said that Sudanese people are keen to move Sudan to the structure of the civil state, stressing "These amendments have upheld nearly all of the militant Salafi principles within the policies and laws from previous periods of Sudan’s history".

"We would also like to point out that the transitional authority’s attempts to rely on the references to the ‘true religion’ were discriminatory and baseless (...) the amendments reflected an unrivalled identification with the Salafi interpretations that have dominated Sudan for the past 30 years".

The groups said that despite the cancellation of the death penalty for apostasy, personal freedom remains unprotected because the new law emphasizes full infliction of "hudud" punishments such as execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet.

The same for the rights of non-Muslims to drink alcohol and sell it, the civil society groups said: "This amendment includes discrimination on the basis of religion and does not recognize equality on the basis of citizenship as a principle of interaction between citizens in the state".

The full text of the statement, which is available at the press statements section, pinpointed to many contradictions and violations included in the Miscellaneous Amendments Act of July 2020.

Last July, Sudanese Justice Minister Nasr al-Din Abdel-Bari admitted that the implementation of these amendments will face difficulties, but pointed out that the prosecution can play an important role in this respect.

He further said they are considering abolishing the Personal Status Law to protect women’s rights.

For the alcohol, the minister acknowledged the implementation will face challenges when a Muslim and non-Muslim found drinking together adding the latter may be charged with complicity.

"We only sought to guarantee non-Muslims their rights," he further added.

(ST)

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