Washington DC – Human Rights First today welcomed the release of Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a Sudanese woman who had been given a death sentence in Sudan on charges of apostasy for marrying a Christian, and called on the Sudanese government to pay restitution for the harm Ibrahim and her children have suffered on account of the state’s prosecution. Earlier today, Ibrahim’s sentence was vacated by the Court of Cassation, which ordered her release.
“While Mariam’s case generated a huge amount of attention from the international community, it is emblematic of the serious abuses of religious freedom occurring in Sudan,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke. “While the Sudanese courts have rightly released this brave woman and her young children, that can’t be the end of the story. Sudan’s leaders should ensure that Mariam and her children are protected from further abuse either from government officials or extremists. Sudan should also compensate Ibrahim and her children for the harm they suffered as a result of this egregious prosecution. The United States should monitor this case to ensure that Sudan does not abandon its responsibility to right this wrong.”
Human Rights First notes that international attention –from countries such as the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany – helped to reverse the course of injustice in this case. These nations should now continue to raise cases of violation of religious freedom in Sudan and call on the Sudanese government to revise its regulation of marriage and the law on apostasy that are out of sync with international standards set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a party.
Other Sudanese have reportedly faced similar sentences following their convictions of apostasy, but they escaped execution by renouncing their faith. Ibrahim refused to denounce her Christianity in exchange for mercy. Her husband, Daniel Wani, immigrated to the United States and is now a citizen residing in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Last week, New Hampshire Senators Kelly Ayotte (R) and Jeanne Shaheen (D) introduced legislation to grant U.S. legal status to Ibrahim, a step Human Rights First praised as reflecting America’s long commitment to protect those facing religious and other persecution. It is unclear whether Ibrahim will stay in Sudan or seek refuge in another nation.