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Press briefing notes on Ukraine and Sudan

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 16 May 2014

1) Ukraine

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday that a new UN report produced by her 34-strong monitoring team in Ukraine shows “an alarming deterioration in the human rights situation in the east of the country, as well as serious problems emerging in Crimea, especially in relation to the Crimean Tatars.”

She called on “those with influence on the armed groups responsible for much of the violence in eastern Ukraine to do their utmost to rein in these men who seem bent on tearing the country apart.”

The 36-page report is the second to be produced by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, based in five Ukrainian cities, since it was deployed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in March. It covers the period from 2 April to 6 May.

The High Commissioner's press release can be viewed at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14606&LangID=E

The full report can be accessed at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/HRMMUReport15May2014.pdf

2) Sudan

We are deeply concerned about the situation of Ms. Meriam Ibrahim, the 27-year-old pregnant Sudanese woman who was sentenced to 100 lashes and to death by Sudan’s Criminal Court on Thursday.

At a hearing on 11 May, the Court supported the charges of apostasy and adultery against Ms. Ibrahim, nullified her marriage with a Christian man and gave her three days to “declare her return to Islam.”

Following her refusal to renounce her Christian faith yesterday, Ms. Ibrahim was found guilty under the 1991 Criminal Act.

We are concerned about the physical and mental well-being of Ms. Ibrahim, who is in her eighth month of pregnancy; and also of her 20-month-old son, who is detained with her at the Omdurman’s Women Prison near Khartoum, reportedly in harsh conditions.

We urge the Sudanese Government to meet its obligations under international law to protect the right to freedom of religion, which is enshrined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)*, which Sudan has ratified.

Article 18 states that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in unity with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”

The 2005 Constitution of Sudan also refers to the complete freedom to worship a religion of one’s own choosing, and the rights of men and women to marry and build a family.

The Government of Sudan should also guarantee the rights of Ms. Ibrahim and her son not to be deprived arbitrarily of their liberty as well as their right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal, in accordance with the Covenant.

Adultery should not be classified as a criminal offence nor be punishable by imprisonment, flogging or sentence of death. The criminalization, and application of the death penalty, for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, to equality and non-discrimination, freedom from torture and ill-treatment, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. Under international law the death penalty can only be applied for the most serious crimes and after the most stringent fair trial safeguards. “Most serious crimes” has been consistently interpreted by human rights mechanisms as murder and other forms of intentional killing.

Human rights mechanisms also consider any form of corporal punishment – including flogging – as incompatible with article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 /rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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