Amnesty International protests stoning in Iran

From Amnesty International, Jan. 15:

Iran: Death by stoning, a grotesque and unacceptable penalty
As nine women and two men in Iran wait to be stoned to death, Amnesty International today called on the Iranian authorities to abolish death by stoning and impose an immediate moratorium on this horrific practice, specifically designed to increase the suffering of the victims.

In a new report published today, the organisation called on the authorities urgently to repeal or amend the country’s Penal Code and to ensure total adherence in the meantime to a moratorium on stoning issued by the Head of the Judiciary in 2002.

“We welcome recent moves towards reform and reports that the Majles (Iran’s parliament) is discussing an amended Penal Code that would permit the suspension of at least some stoning sentences, in cases where it is deemed ‘expedient’,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. “But the authorities must go much further, and take the steps needed to ensure that the new Penal Code neither permits stoning to death nor provides for execution by other means for adultery.”

Iran’s Penal Code prescribes execution by stoning. It even dictates that the stones are large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim immediately. Article 102 of the Penal Code states that men should be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones”.

The serious failings in the justice system commonly result in unfair trials, including in capital cases. Despite the moratorium imposed in 2002 and official denials that stoning sentences continued to be implemented in Iran, deaths by stoning have been reported. Ja’far Kiani was stoned to death on 5 July 2007 in the village of Aghche-kand, near Takestan in Qazvin province. He had been convicted of committing adultery with Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, with whom he had two children and who was also sentenced to death by stoning. The stoning was carried out despite a stay of execution ordered in his case and in defiance of the 2002 moratorium.

It was the first officially confirmed stoning since the moratorium, although a woman and a man are known to have been stoned to death in Mashhad in May 2006. There are fears that Mokarrameh Ebrahimi may yet suffer the same fate. She is in Choubin prison, Qazvin province, apparently with one of her two children.

Amnesty International is equally worried about the remaining eight women and two men who may face the same fate, and whose cases are highlighted in the new report.

The majority of those sentenced to death by stoning are women. Women suffer disproportionately from such punishment. One reason is that they are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of international fair trial standards. They are particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because they are more likely than men to be illiterate and therefore more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit. Discrimination against women in other aspects of their lives also leaves them more susceptible to conviction for adultery.

In spite of this gloomy reality, there are grounds to hope that death by stoning will be completely abolished in Iran in the future. Courageous efforts are being made by local human rights defenders in Iran who launched the “Stop Stoning Forever” campaign following the May 2006 stonings in Mashhad. Since they began, their efforts have helped save four women and one man – Hajieh Esmailvand, Soghra Mola’i, Zahra Reza’i, Parisa A and her husband Najaf – from stoning. As well, another woman, Ashraf Kalhori, has had her stoning sentence temporarily stayed.

“We urge the Iranian authorities to heed our calls, and those of the Iranians who are striving relentlessly to obtain an end to this horrendous practice,”said Malcolm Smart.

But these efforts have come at a high price. Campaigners in Iran continue to face harassment and intimidation from the authorities. Asieh Amini, Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, another leading member of “Stop Stoning Forever”, were among 33 women arrested while protesting in March 2007 about the trial of five women’s rights activists in Tehran. Thirty-one of the detainees were released by 9 March. Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr were released on bail of 200 million toumans (over US$215,000) on 19 March. They are likely to face trial, possibly on charges including “disturbing public order” and “acting against state security”.

Human rights defenders in Iran believe that international publicity and pressure, in support of local efforts, can help bring about change in the country.

See our last posts on the Iran, and the women’s struggle.

  1. Amputations spreading in Iran
    The ayatollah state helpfully provides some useful propaganda to the State Department-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Jan. 7:

    Iran: Criminals Lose Hands And Feet As Shari’a Law Imposed
    Five convicted criminals in southeastern Iran have received the seldom-used form of punishment of amputation.

    The amputation sentences were carried out in Zahedan, the capital of Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province. The five men were found guilty of armed robbery, hostage taking, and firing at police, though officially they were convicted of “acting against God” and “corruption upon this Earth.”

    Amputation as a punishment is legal in Iran, but there have been no reports of it being used for several years. It is unknown if the meting out of such a punishment now is a new trend or if this was an isolated incident in only one region of the country.

    Cross Amputation

    With doctors watching, the convicted men’s right hands and left feet were amputated. Traditionally, the right hand is amputated for a first serious offense and the left foot for a second serious offense. The right hand-left foot amputation is referred to as “cross amputation.”

    The Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported the amputations on January 6, though it is not clear when the sentences were carried out or if the amputations were done in prison or in public.

    International rights organizations have long condemned punishing people through amputations. Amnesty International, for example, calls it the “cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment of judicial amputation,” and considers it a form of torture.

    The deputy director of the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights and head of the League for Defense Of Human Rights in Iran, Abdolkarim Lahidji, told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that such amputations are considered torture and an illegitimate form of punishment.

    “Amputating hands, flogging, all of these kind of [sentences] that are used in Iranian Islamic laws as punishment, all of these are considered torture, [and] torture has been banned in [international treaties],” Lahidji said.

    Amputation as legal punishment is still practiced in a number of countries, among them Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Islamic regions of Nigeria. They were also common in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Parts of sub-Saharan West Africa have also recently witnessed amputations as a form of intimidation used by various political factions.

    Many Iranians are horrified by the punishments.

    In a phone-in with Radio Farda, one listener from Tehran said, “These sentences of cutting off hands and legs are barbaric.”

    Another listener, Leila from Tehran, agreed with that opinion. “I’m totally against these [sentences], the actions of those who amputate hands and legs are satanic and a crime; the team of doctors who was present there are accomplices to the crime,” she said.

    But Javad Harati, from the city of Isfahan, said he thinks amputations serve a purpose. “I think these sentences should be carried out so that the enemies of Iran and those who are against the revolution don’t even think about [working against the revolution],” Harati said.

    Pre-Islamic Tradition

    Ahmad Ghabel, an Islamic scholar from Qom, told Radio Farda that the use of amputation is a relic of laws from a much earlier time, and not necessarily only from Islamic countries.

    “The origin of these [criminal] codes goes back to the time when they were declared. They were the requirements of governing at the time of the Prophet Muhammad. At that time these punishments were accepted in the East, and the West as well as the Middle East. Therefore the use of this code [now] is doubtful,” Ghabel said.

    In Iran, it is more typical for courts to pass death sentences on those convicted of committing serious crimes: the same day that ISNA reported the amputations, there were reports that two men had been hanged.

    A former police official found guilty of stabbing a man to death and raping his fiancee near the central city of Arak was hanged in public while a second man convicted of murdering two people was hanged in Arak prison.

    The amputations also come just six months after a man was stoned to death in Qazvin Province, west of Tehran, for alleged adultery. The stoning was widely condemned by the international community and by many Islamic leaders in Iran.

    Iranian media report that 16 people have been hanged so far in 2008. In 2007, more than 290 convicts were executed, many in public.

    We wonder if those accused of “robbery and hostage-taking” are related to the Baluch insurgency which spans the Iran-Pakistan border. This Jan. 10 report from the Balochistan People’s Party (online at UNPO) paints a grim picture:

    West Balochistan: New Abuses
    The Iranian regime has executed 30 and dismembered 5 Baluch people in seven days in Iran.

    On 27th December of 2007, while the people in the West were enjoying Christmas holidays, the Iranian security forces summoned 17 families to go and collect their hanged members. Seventeen young Baluch had been hanged that early morning. The government did not allow the publication of the hanging to be reflected in any media. This was not the first time that a large number of people were executed in one day. This has been the official policy of the Iranian regime to engage in a systematic oppression of Baluch people since its emergence 30 years ago.

    On the first day of the New Year [2008] two Baluch men were executed in a prison in the Zahedan, provincial capital of Balochistan, the official news agency IRNA said. Also on the first day of the New Year, 13 Iranians were hanged according to Associated Press which was reflected in other media. The Baluch human rights activists claimed that more than half of them were Baluch.

    On the second day of the New Year two Baluch men were hanged and two other were shot dead, according to Isna.

    On the third day of the New Year, two Baluch teenagers were shot dead in Zahedan while they were carrying water. These young men had gone to buy water for a wedding ceremony. Zahedan which is the capital of Baluchistan is divided into two parts: Shia part and Sunni part. The Shia part of the city has various different utilities including water. The Sunni part of the city is deprived of major utilities and the Baluch Sunni people must go out and buy water from the market dispensed by water tankers. The Governor of Zahedan confirmed the clash between the Baluch and the security forces in Zahedan after the shooting. The news was also reflected in many local media.

    The news of the executions and hangings of Baloch people do not get properly reflected in the National media of Iran as ordered by the government while the international community is unaware of the events the Iranian regime is freely continuing its policy of mass executions and hangings of Baloch people quietly in different cities of Iran. The Iranian news agencies usually give a few lines about the executions of traffickers and rebels what western media like to reflect with reference to the Iranian controlled media. The Iranian people know that the Iranian regime executes its political opponents after defining them as rebels, terrorists and drug traffickers.

    Mohammad Reza Sarawani, deputy of Social Affairs of Baluchistan province announced that 76 percent of the Baluch people live under the poverty line, The official news agency of Shana reported on 31 December 07. The official average figure for people who are living under poverty line in Iran is 11 percent. A very simple comparison of the Baluch people who are living under poverty line and the rest of Iranian population clearly indicate a comprehensive discrimination policy against the people of Baluchistan. The Baluch people who are living in such conditions are also subjected to various ways of oppression and repression. This is clearly a crime against humanity to keep the Baluch people poor and backwards and whenever they raise the voice for demanding their legitimate and basic rights, they become the target of the most inhuman and oppressive policies.

    We seek to draw the attention of international community, human rights organizations, United Nations, political activists and leaders, journalists and investigators and other people of the world to the plight of the Baluch people in Iran. We seek the help of all human beings to condemn the oppressive policies of Iranian regime in Baluchistan.

    We would like to invite all human rights organizations to go inside Baluchistan and observe the plight of the Baluch people on the ground. We seek the attention of the journalists to conduct more research on Baluchistan and write about a people who are the subject of severe discrimination and oppression. We wish to draw the attention of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, United Nations Commissions for Human Rights and the European Parliament to prepare documentary reports about the political, social and economic conditions of Baluch people in Iran.

    The Iranian regime will continue its mass executions and poverty creation policies in Baluchistan until international community puts sufficient pressure on the government to halt its policies of oppression, repression, execution, political exclusion, social deprivation.

    Your efforts can make a great difference for the people of Baluchistan. You can stop the execution and hangings of the Baluch people in Iran. You can contribute to their well-being and prosperity.

    Do what you can do to help the Baluch people who cannot help themselves at this moment in history.

    Baluchistan Peoples Front

    Balochistan Peoples Party

    Baluchistan United Front, Federal Republicans

    Baluchistan National Movement-Iran

    Balochistan Mobarizeen Movement