Death sentence against Sudanese doctor sparks widespread protest

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 20 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3406
  1. Peter Moszynski
  1. 1London

Outrage has been mounting worldwide over a death sentence imposed on a Sudanese doctor.

Muslim-born Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, who is eight months pregnant, was last week convicted of apostasy for converting to Christianity and sentenced to death by hanging after she refused to recant her faith. The Khartoum court also annulled her marriage—to South Sudanese born Daniel Wani, a US citizen—and sentenced her to 100 lashes for adultery, because Sudanese law forbids Muslim women marrying non-Muslims.

Joe Amun, a health campaigner for Human Rights Watch, which has just released a report about threats to health workers, told The BMJ that the conviction and sentence not only “violates Sudanese and international law with respect to discrimination against religious minorities and failure to uphold women’s rights, it also is a blow to the important role that health workers can play as an independent voice and champion for non-discrimination and human rights.”

The World Medical Association and the BMA are actively campaigning for the sentence to be overturned.

Mukesh Haikerwal, chairman of the World Medical Association, said, “This is a flagrant violation of the most basic and fundamental human rights. Women are entitled to these same rights across the world. This is an atrocity. It has nothing to do with religion but a failure of laws and interpretation of them that is an abomination and a crime against human rights, personal freedom, and self determination.”

Mark Porter, the BMA’s chairman of council, and David Richmond, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, are calling on doctors to lead the protest against the “appalling savagery of the court,” and this week the World Medical Association is holding a meeting in Geneva to highlight the global problem of violence against women and girls.

Ibrahim is currently in prison in Khartoum along with her 20 month old son. It is unlikely that she will be hanged in the near future, as Sudanese law prohibits the execution of nursing mothers until their infants are 2 years old, although she could potentially be lashed and might face execution sooner should the baby she is carrying fail to survive.

No one has been executed for apostasy in Sudan since 1985.


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3406

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