CAUGHT BETWEEN MILITANT IDEOLOGY AND TERROR: WOMEN IN THE HORN OF AFRICA FACE GROWING THREATS AND
Sudan: Ethiopian Woman Gang Raped by Seven Sudanese Men convicted of “Indecent Acts”
20th February 2014:
The young Ethiopian woman at the centre of a trial where she was gang raped by seven men has been found guilty of committing “Indecent Acts”. She has been sentenced to 1 month in prison which has been suspended and a fine of 5000 Sudanese Pounds (approximately 961USD).
Of the seven men who were also under trial, three were convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes, whilst a further two were convicted of indecent acts and sentenced to 40 lashes, one with an added 3000SDG (577USD approx) fine and the other with an added 2000SDG (385USD approx) fine. A sixth person involved with incident was set free due to insufficient evidence against him. A further man was convicted of Article 153, distributing indecent material, and was sentenced to 40 lashes and a fine of 10,000 SDG (1,923USD approx). Those subject to lashings had their sentences carried out immediately afterwards in a closed court setting.
The victim, an Ethiopian migrant, has now further been threatened by the court with Article 30-A of the passports and immigration law (of 1994) which is as translated "punishment for illegal entry: anyone who enters Sudan illegally and stays in the country illegally, faces a jail sentence not less than one year and not more than two years or faces a fine or both sentences. And the court has to send him/her back"
The 18 year old Ethiopian woman was lured to an empty property whilst she was house hunting, once there she was attacked by seven men and gang raped. The incident was filmed by perpetrators but was only sent out through social media six months later in January 2014. It was the film that prompted the arrests and investigations of all persons involved with the incident. The Ethiopian woman, who is currently nine months pregnant, was three months pregnant at the time of the rape itself. Since her arrest she has been kept in police cells and been refused requests for her transfer to medical facilities.
Since the court case began on the 6th Feb, various charges have been added, removed or amended against those standing trial, with up until yesterday (19th Feb) the Ethiopian woman as well as five of the male perpetrators being charged with adultery. Similarly, where there had been some dispute regarding the woman’s marital status, the court finally accepted that she was divorced, thus mitigating the threat of a death by stoning sentence which could be levelled against a married person for adultery.
It is of note that the woman, in the aftermath of the rape, was found by a police officer. The police officer in question brought the woman to a police station however due to it being the public holiday of Eid Al Fitr failed to file a formal complaint. The Attorney General, following the woman’s arrest, has since blocked the woman from filing a complaint of rape as she was under investigation for a criminal offence. There is no legal guidance on whether a person under a criminal investigation can raise criminal complaints and the Attorney General has arbitrarily interpreted this legal void in a way that the perpetrators have been made immune from prosecution for rape.
Denying her the ability to make a formal complaint which serves to refute the charges being laid against her and pursue justice, renders the perpetrators immune from accountability and violates the rights of the victim. It furthermore is prohibitive of her making a future complaint as it is illegal for persons to be tried using the same facts and evidence twice.
The conviction of indecent acts against the woman seeks to place culpability upon the part of the victim, but is also notable in that the conviction of adultery was dropped as a verdict of adultery rests upon a demonstration of consent on her part, which could not be proven.
The case has raised multiple challenges regarding the treatment of rape survivors and their capacity to pursue justice and exacerbates the risk that those who have been raped and victimised already maybe re-victimised by the judicial system and subject to imprisonment, fines or at worst corporal punishment. Placing culpability on the part of the victim minimises the accountability of the perpetrators and implicitly sends a message that sexual violence is in part the fault of the victim.
Hala Elkarib, SIHA Network’s Regional Director stated that, “This verdict reflects the substantial challenges in enabling victims of sexual violence to pursue justice. It will also serve to prevent future victims from speaking out and seeking assistance and entrenches a culture of impunity for perpetrators.”
“Women migrants and IDPs are some of the most marginalised people in Sudan and most vulnerable to violence, abuse and persecution. The Sudanese judiciary today has demonstrated its incapacity to protect the most vulnerable in society and instead attempt to delegitimize those that experience abuse at the hands of its citizens. The levelling of immigration charges against the victim further denies her protection by the state and protracts the punishment and emotional stress against her whilst she has been subjected to the most brutal of crimes.”
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com on either +256 779 386 476 or +249 (0)912333763 (liaison with lawyers working on the case can be arranged as can statements from SIHA Regional Director)
NOTES AND INFORMATION:
- It is of note, that Sudanese legislation, in respect of adultery, is the effective criminalisation of all sexual relationships outside of the marital bond, as such any individual that has had intercourse with a person to whom they are not married is liable to be charged for adultery. The punishments stipulated within legislation vary in relation to the marital status of the perpetrator and for those who are already married; the penalty can be as severe as death by stoning.
- It is of note further that the commission of adultery rests upon the capacity for the woman to give consent to sexual intercourse, which in this case the Ethiopian woman was unable to do.
- Adultery Legislation in its full form:
There shall be deemed to commit adultery:- (a) every man, who has sexual intercourse
with a woman, without there being a lawful bond between them; (b) every woman, who permits a man to have sexual intercourse with her, without there being a lawful bond, between them.(2)Sexual intercourse takes place by the penetration of the whole glans, or its equivalent into the vulva.(3)There shall not be deemed, to be lawful bond, marriage which, by consensus, is ruled void.
Whoever commits the offence of adultery shall be punished with : (a) execution, by Lapidation (stoning) where the offender is married (muhsan); (b) one hundred lashes, where the offender is not married (non-muhsan).(2) The male, non-married offender may be punished, in addition to whipping, with expatriation for one year.(3) Being “muhsan” means having a valid persisting marriage at the time of the commission of adultery; provided that such marriage has been consummated.
- Details on Sudan’s Criminal Code and Article 151 can be found on pages 2 – 11 of the SIHA report to the 52nd Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
- A further report by Nobel Women’s Peace Initiative and the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict detailed the complexities of pursuing rape cases in Sudan and the re-victimisation by the legal system of those who have been violated.
- Although rarely executed, the sentence of stoning for adultery has been deployed twice in recent years, both times in 2012 where two women, Intisar Sharif and Layla Jamool were convicted for adultery. Following appeals in both cases, the sentences were overturned.
- Migrants in Sudan experience substantial mistreatment and marginalisation by Sudanese authorities and the Sudanese community at large. Significant animosity is directed towards the Ethiopian community on the pretext that they are steeling jobs with prejudices being laid against them that they are either HIV positive or that they are all prostitutes.
- The Sudanese media has been engaged in an effort to defame and thus delegitimize the Ethiopian woman in a bid to reduce the perception of criminality by the perpetrators. Such defamation has included falsely claiming that she has HIV and claiming that she is a prostitute. There have even been cynical attempts to falsely claim that the men were accidently prescribed hallucinogenic drugs by a chemist beforehand.
- The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA Network) is a regional network working in the Horn of Africa (HoA), since the early 1990’s with a membership of women’s civil society organisations in the region, which include Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. Our vision is that all women and girls in the HoA must have the right to live in a peaceful, just environment and to exercise their equal rights as human beings. SIHA works to realize this vision through a network that is well grounded within civil society and regionally active, whilst taking account of global issues.
SIHA’s overarching goal is to eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls. SIHA does this through implementing capacity building programs to grass roots civil society, providing direct support for women in conflict and post conflict situations, and promoting the human rights of women through advocacy and campaigning activities.