May 21 2014
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Chairman of the Subcommittee on African Affairs Chris Coons (D-DE), Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) today introduced legislation condemning the death sentence of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a Sudanese Christian woman accused of apostasy, and calling for her immediate and unconditional release from prison, where she remains with her 20 month-old son.
Ibrahim, also eight months pregnant, was sentenced to death for allegedly leaving Islam after authorities were made aware of her marriage to a Christian man.
The resolution reaffirms the U.S. government’s commitment to ending religious discrimination, calling for the inclusion of religious freedom and respect for international human rights during the drafting of Sudan’s new constitution.
“I am disgusted and appalled by the inhumane verdict Ms. Ibrahim has received, simply for refusing to recant her Christian faith. This is yet another example of the kind of religious intolerance and persecution that has no place in any civilized, free society,” said Rubio. “No one should have to live in a world where they fear for their life simply because of religion.
“This legislation strives to encourage religious freedom within Sudan by ensuring that the new constitution includes protections for such fundamental rights, which would be a significant step toward a more democratic future for the people of Sudan,” added Rubio. “I also commend Ms. Ibrahim’s courage in refusing to renounce her Christianity, and I encourage her to remain steadfast. The world condemns her verdict and will stand by her in her moment of need.”
“Prosecuting and sentencing to death someone — let alone a pregnant woman — because she refused to recant her religious faith is abhorrent and utterly inhuman,” said Coons. “Instead of persecuting citizens, governments should be protecting them and their right to hold and change their religious beliefs. The Sudanese Government made a commitment when it signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It should release Ms. Ibrahim Ishag and her son from jail and reject these apostasy laws.”
“The idea of imprisoning, let alone flogging or killing, a pregnant mother for her religious beliefs, or those of her husband, is an affront to the Sudanese constitution, international norms, and basic human dignity,” said Menendez. “Sudan must recommit itself to upholding its own domestic and international obligations, including respecting the right of Ms. Ishag and all Sudanese to worship as they so choose.”
“It is hard to imagine that we still live in a world where a government has detained a pregnant woman and sentenced her to death solely for peacefully practicing her personal faith,” said Inhofe. “I’ve joined my Senate colleagues in urging the government of Sudan to release Meriam and her child immediately and for the United States to help with any means possible to ensure her safety. We are a nation founded on the value that freedom of religion is the foundation to all freedoms, and therefore we have a duty to encourage others to recognize this basic human right. Kay and I have Meriam and her family in our prayers, and I will continue to work to do everything in my power to help secure her safe release.”
A PDF of the legislation is available here.
The resolution resolves that the Senate:
- condemns the charge of apostasy and death sentence of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag and calls for immediate and unconditional release of her and her son;
- encourages efforts by the United States Government to support religious freedom within Sudan including by requiring, before normalizing relations or lifting sanctions under the International Religious Freedom Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, that the government of Sudan abide by international standards of freedom of religion or belief;
- urges the government of Sudan to ensure that, when drafting the country’s new constitution, the process is transparent and inclusive of civil society leaders and representatives of all major political parties, to ensure that the new constitution includes protections for freedom of religion or belief, respect for international human rights commitments, and recognition of Sudan as a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural nation;
- recognizes that every individual regardless of religion should have the opportunity to practice their religion without fear of discrimination;
- reaffirms the commitment of the United States to ending religious discrimination and to pursuing policies that guarantee the basic human rights of all individuals worldwide; and
- encourages the Department of State, and the United States Agency for International Development, to continue their support for initiatives worldwide that support religious freedom.