Justice is sometimes served

Intisar Sharif Abdallah was released on 3 July after the Ombada court, in Omdurman,a suburb of the capital Khartoum, dropped all charges against her due to a lack of evidence. The court had re-tried her after the court of appeal of Omdurman had overturned her sentence of death by stoning.

In the initial trial, the Ombada court had convicted Intisar Sharif Abdallah of adultery on 13 May and sentenced her the same day to death by stoning. The judgement was based solely on Intisar Sharif Abdallah’s testimony, which she gave under duress after having been beaten by her brother. In the initial trial, Intisar Sharif Abdallah had been denied legal representation. After the 13 May sentence, lawyers representing Intisar Sharif Abdallah filed appeals to the appeal court of Omdurman. The appeal court on 20 June overturned the 13 May verdict and sentence, citingthe Ombada court’s violation of Intisar Sharif Abdallah’s constitutional right to legal defence. The court of Omdurman ordered that the case should be returned to the Ombada court for a re-trial.

At the 2 July re-trial at the Ombada court, the lawyers of Intisar Sharif Abdallah stated that she had retracted her testimony and was denying the charges. The following day the Ombada court dropped the case for lack of sufficient evidence, citing article 141 of the 1991 Criminal Procedure Act. Intisar Sharif Abdallah was released later on3 July. She no longer faces charges.

Sentenced to Stoning

On April 22 in Sudan, a young woman, Intisar Sharif Abdalla, was sentenced to stoning for adultery. She and her co-accused both denied the charges. Her “confession” came on the heels of severe beatings by her brother. She had no legal representation, does not speak the dominant language Arabic, and was sentenced after one court session. The man co-accused with Intisar was released based on his denial of the charges.

I know Sudanese women to be strong, resourceful and resilient in the face of unreasonable burdens. I can only imagine the lonely grief in which this woman spends her days. In many ways, her personal tragedy defines the status of women in Sudan.

 From the SIHA Report by Hala Alkarib, Director of the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA):   “The de-anchoring of the law from a clear standard of general public interest leaves Sudan’s legislation in relation to personal matters particularly open to exploitation as a tool to express the temporary interests of the authorities in control. A good example is the public order police of Sudan’s, Special Forces that are assigned to terrorise women and interrogate them by observing their personal behaviour, their dress code, their mobility and their exposure in the public sphere. Ultimately the ideology behind the articles and the application of the Sudanese criminal code is meant to enforce the tyranny of the ruling regime through alienating women by crippling their public participation, both of which have a paralysing effect on society as a whole.”

 It’s been clear to me for some time that the solution to the catastrophic violence gripping the country is not only the inclusion of women in the efforts toward peace, but their dominance in that process. A generation has been lost to the mindset of war and poverty. Nonetheless, it’s never too late to help women discover their power. This is a foundational belief of Women’s Centers International.

Hala concludes: “Intisar is currently shackled by metal chains and imprisoned in Omdurman women’s prison in Sudan together with her four month old baby, where she is being re-victimised and burdened again by thecomplex layers of Sudan’s heavy political baggage and an unjust legal system.”

SIHA deserves the support of anyone who cares about the fate of Intisar – and all the nameless women who suffer as she does.