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The Meriam Ibrahim Litigation in Sudan

The Clinic provided legal advice to the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI) in the petitions for Meriam Ibrahim, her husband, Daniel Wani, son, Martin Wani, and daughter, Maya Wani, in Sudanese domestic courts and in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Meriam large

Researchers

Litigation background

The Clinic provided legal advice to the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI) in the petitions for Meriam Ibrahim and her family. SHRI is one of the partners of the CHR, and the founding member of SHRI is Mr Elshareef Ali Mohammed, who graduated from BCU with an LLM in 2013. For the global significance of his work on human rights, he won the BCU Alumni of the Year Award.

The aim of the case was to prevent Meriam from receiving 100 lashes for the crime of zina (sexual immorality), and then the death penalty for the crime of ridda (apostasy), as both are crimes under the Sudanese Criminal Law Act of 1991. There were significant arguments to make concerning the procedural fairness, wrong application of Sudanese law, and that her sentence was also a violation of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In Sudan, Elshareef was able to use what he learned on his LLM on the subject of criminal sanctions within Sharia law. At BCU Dr Nazir was able to provide expert advice on Islamic law, and Professor Yorke drafted the provisions on international human rights law in the case. 

Meriam Ibrahim: The Case that Gripped the World 

Litigation aims

The aim of the case was to prevent Meriam from receiving 100 lashes for the crime of zina (sexual immorality), and then the death penalty for the crime of ridda (apostasy), as both are crimes under the Sudanese Criminal Law Act of 1991. There were significant arguments to make concerning the wrong application of Sudanese law to this case, and that her sentence was also a violation of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights.

This is described in the blog posts written from the Oxford Human Rights Hub, see,  For further information on the litigation, see the Oxford Human Rights Hub Blogposts, Meriam Ibrahim Saved from 100 Lashes and the Death Penalty, and Meriam Ibrahim is Freed: Weaving Together Law, Politics and Civil Society.

Litigation process

In Sudan, Elshareef was able to use what he learned on his LLM on the subject of criminal sanctions within Sharia law. At BCU Dr Nazir was able to provide expert advice on Islamic law, and Professor Yorke drafted the provisions on international human rights law in the case. 

Litigation results

CHR supported SHRI’s work preventing the state from imposing corporal punishment and then saving Meriam’s life. The cases in Meriam’s litigation were:

  • Grounds for Judgment, Trial of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishaq (Meriam Ibrahim), Non-Summary Judgment, Haj Yossif General Court, Hudd Cases/5/2014, 11 May 2014
  • Appeal Court Decision (Meriam Ibrahim) Court of Appeal in the Khartoum North and Sharg-el nil Criminal Circuit, 22 June 2014 

Also, in the Petitions to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights:

  • Communication 471/14, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim and three others, v. The Republic of Sudan, Complainants’ reply to the Respondent State’s observations on admissibility, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, 19 June 2015
  • Urgent Appeal in Respect of Ms Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, to Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur on Women’s Rights, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 10 June 2014

Aspects of the case were written by Professor Yorke for the Oxford Human Rights Hub, see,  For further information on the litigation, see the Oxford Human Rights Hub Blogposts, Meriam Ibrahim Saved from 100 Lashes and the Death Penalty, and Meriam Ibrahim is Freed: Weaving Together Law, Politics and Civil Society.

BCU Law School hosted a high profile Panel Discussion, “Meriam Ibrahim: The Case that Gripped the World,” on October 1, 2014 which engaged with the human rights implications in the case, including, the death penalty, freedom of religion, ethnicity and race, and women’s and children’s rights in Sudan.

The Panel included:

  • The Rt Hon Baroness Anelay of St Johns, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Mr Christopher Layden, Desk Officer on the Death Penalty, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Mr Elshareef Ali Mohammed, SHRI and member of Meriam Ibrahim’s legal team
  • Mr Andrew Hall QC, Doherty Street Chambers, an expert in African law
  • Dr Lutz Oette, Redress, the School of Oriental and African Studies and advisor and drafter of petitions in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
  • Professor Jon Yorke Director of the BCU Centre for Human Rights
  • Panel Chair, Mr Manjit Singh Gill QC., No5 Chambers, international human rights law expert.