Minors at the time of the crime are threatened with the death penalty in Sudan – disputed legal situation
Currently, four prisoners are awaiting execution in Sudan for crimes they are alleged to have committed and for which they were convicted when they were under the age of 18, i.e. when they were legally children. The death sentence is a clear violation of Sudan’s 2010 Children’s Law
Mudthar Al-Reeh, Fadl Al-Mawla, Ahmad Jibril, and Abbas Nur were all sentenced to death for murder under Article 130 of Sudan’s 1991 Penal Code. Efforts to overturn the sentence have so far failed. Their lawyer, Taha Fadl Taha, says their cases are “the strangest in Sudanese courts in terms of violations and extreme injustice.”
The death sentences against the four individuals, some of whom were only 15 years old and thus still children at the time of the crimes, prompted human rights organizations to launch a campaign against the execution of children. Protests took place in front of the judiciary’s headquarters in Khartoum during the court hearings. The activists demanded the death sentences be overturned and were able to convince the authorities to remove the hand and ankle shackles from the detained children
Former judge and international legal advisor Dr. Omar Ibrahim Kabashi explains the change in approach to the case, i.e., treating children as adults: “Death sentences against children were made impossible due to the 2010 Children’s Law and its definition of children as all persons under 18 years of age. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that the Children’s Law violates Islamic Sharia law, which leaves it to judges to determine a child’s age of majority based on appearance and various characteristics [of puberty].” However, he pointed out that there are other opinions on the issue
Radical changes were made to a number of laws in 2019 following the collapse of the Islamist government in the African nation, which was known for its extremism. Sudan’s Ministry of Justice approved changes to some local laws, such as removing the contradiction between the Penal Code and the Family and Children’s Code, a change long called for by child rights organizations
However, those who are already imprisoned cannot benefit from these changes because they have gone through the entire judicial process that concluded with the Constitutional Court rulings that must be implemented. In short, the amendments cannot be applied retroactively.