Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament, The human rights situation in Sudan constitutes a continuing worry for the European Union. The shrinking space for civil society organisations and restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly remain among the main areas of our concern. I personally also raised these issues during my visit to Sudan last October.
The case of Noura Hussein, who has been sentenced to death at the tender age of 19, after being forced into marriage at the age of 16 and raped, brings to the forefront many of the country's complex and interrelated human rights problems ranging from sexual violence, child and forced marriage to the continuing use of capital punishment. Consequently, Noura's story has not only caused public outcry internationally but more importantly also within Sudan.
The criminal justice systems ought to prevent and protect women and girls from all forms of violence. This is sadly not the case in Sudan. Rape, including by habitual or cohabiting partners, should never be tolerated under any circumstances. Moreover, Sudan's Personal Status Law allowing for child marriage without the consent of the intending spouses needs urgent revision. As reiterated in the local statement issued by the EU on the case, the European Union is opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances and cases with no exception and aims at its universal abolition.
The EU is also concerned about the recent news on the attempts by the state security apparatus to intimidate Noura's defence team and calls on Sudan to allow the lawyers to work without the fear of reprisals. The EU will continue to make use of the different means at our disposal to promote and protect girls' and women's human rights in Sudan. This includes by enhancing the access of women and girls to quality education and health care services, raising awareness on girls' and women's rights among communities, in particular with the view of reducing harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), as well as supporting women's economic empowerment by relevant trainings and micro-credit programs.
The EU also calls upon the government to take the necessary steps to accelerate the ratification and the full, effective and non-discriminatory implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to advance the equal recognition, enjoyment and exercise of all human rights of women. In this regard, the EU welcomes the Sudanese Government's intention to ratify this Convention, as announced by the Minister of Justice this week.
I would like to assure you that the EU will continue to closely follow the case of Noura and raise it with the respective authorities. We will also continue to team up with women's human rights defenders and women's organisations to tackle the underlying causes leading to cases such as that of Noura.