Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Amputation and Blinding

Finger Amputations in Evin Prison for Pouya Torabi and Seyyed Barat Hosseini on Charge of "Theft"

Amnesty International
July 29, 2022

(The original title of this article was "Iranian officials must be held accountable for amputating the fingers of two men.")

Iranian authorities used a guillotine machine to amputate the fingers of a man convicted of theft on 27 July 2022, Amnesty International can confirm. Pouya Torabi, who is in his late thirties, was transferred on an emergency basis to a hospital immediately after his fingers were cut off in the presence of several officials and a doctor at Tehran’s Evin prison.

Less than two months ago, on 31 May, Iranian authorities also amputated the fingers of Sayed Barat Hosseini, without giving him anaesthetic. He has since been imprisoned in isolation in Evin prison and denied adequate mental and physical health care for infections and trauma suffered after the amputation.

Amputation is judicially-sanctioned torture and, therefore, a crime under international law.

Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa

“These amputations are particularly harrowing displays of the Iranian authorities’ contempt for human rights and dignity. Amputation is judicially-sanctioned torture and, therefore, a crime under international law, and all those who were involved in ordering or implementing these corporal punishments should be prosecuted in fair trials,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“At least eight other prisoners in Iran are currently at risk of having their fingers amputated. With impunity rife in Iran, more and more people will be subjected to this unspeakably cruel punishment unless the international community takes action. We call on all member states of the UN to forcefully condemn and do everything in their power to pressure the Iranian authorities to immediately abolish corporal punishments. We further urge all states to exercise universal jurisdiction to criminally investigate and prosecute Iranian officials suspected of criminal responsibility for such crimes under international law.”

With impunity rife in Iran, more and more people will be subjected to this unspeakably cruel punishment unless the international community takes action.

Diana Eltahawy

Pouya Torabi and Sayed Barat Hosseini were sentenced in separate cases to amputation about three years ago after criminal courts in Semnan and Kermanshah, respectively, convicted them of theft. According to an informed source interviewed by Amnesty International, both amputation sentences were carried out at a clinic inside Evin prison in the presence of multiple officials, including the prosecutor of Tehran, the associate prosecutor (dadyar) of Evin prison, the judge overseeing the implementation of sentences in Evin prison, the head of Evin prison and the chief doctor at the prison medical clinic.

The same source told Amnesty International that before amputating Sayed Barat Hosseini’s fingers, authorities told him he could pay to “freeze” the fingers and then have them surgically reattached. Sayed Barat Hosseini did not have the money to pay for this.

After having his fingers cut off, Sayed Barat Hosseini immediately lost consciousness due to blood loss and severe pain and was transferred to a hospital outside prison. He was returned to prison three days later, before he had recovered from his ordeal, and his wounds became infected. After weeks of being denied adequate treatment, a further trip to hospital followed in mid-July, but he was returned to jail the same day. He has since been held in isolation in Evin prison without contact with the outside world, in an attempt to prevent news of his punishment and current ill health emerging.

Both Sayed Barat Hosseini and Pouya Torabi were transferred to Evin from provincial prisons for the implementation of their amputation sentences. In April, a special guillotine machine was installed in Evin to centralize the implementation of amputation sentences issued across the country.

The victims of judicial amputations in Iran are overwhelmingly from impoverished backgrounds and lack legal representation of their choosing. It is extremely difficult for victims and their families to alert human rights organizations and media of looming amputations due to threats of reprisal from Iranian authorities, who enforce silence and secrecy around the imposition and implementation of amputation sentences.

Amnesty International renews its calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately abolish, in law and in practice, all forms of corporal punishment. They must halt all planned amputations, and grant Pouya Torabi, Sayed Barat Hosseini and all other victims of judicial amputation access to effective remedies and reparation for harm suffered, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation.


In June 2022, Amnesty International warned that the Iranian authorities were preparing to amputate the fingers of eight other men, including Hadi Rostami, Mehdi Sharfian and Mehdi Shahivand.

According to the Abdorrahman Boroumand Centre, since January 2000, the Iranian authorities have amputated the fingers of at least 131 men.

Cruel and inhuman corporal punishments constitute torture, which is prohibited under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a state party. Despite this, Iran’s Islamic Penal Code provides for various corporal punishments amounting to torture, including amputation flogging, blinding, crucifixion and stoning.

The law states that for certain types of theft, those convicted shall “have four fingers on their right hands completely cut off so that only the palm of their hands and their thumbs are left”.

Iranian law requires that a physician be present during the implementation of corporal punishments, in direct violation of ethical guidelines and international standards which expressly prohibit health providers’ involvement in torture.

The Iranian authorities have consistently defended amputation as the best way to deter theft, and have expressed regret that it cannot be practiced in public because of international condemnation.




ABF Note


Findings of guilt in the Islamic Republic of Iran's Judicial Proceedings

The Islamic Republic of Iran's criminal justice system regularly falls short of the standards for due process necessary for impartiality, fairness, and efficacy. Suspects are often held incommunicado and not told of the reason for their detainment. Defendants are frequently prohibited from examining the evidence used against them. Defendants are sometimes prohibited from having their lawyers present in court. Additionally, confessions, made under duress or torture, are commonly admitted as proof of guilt. Because Iran's courts regularly disregard principles essential to the proper administration of justice, findings of guilt may not be evaluated with certainty.

Corporal Punishment: the Legal context in the Islamic Republic of Iran

The Islamic Republic's criminal code recognizes corporal punishment for a wide range of offenses: consumption of alcohol, theft, adultery, "flouting" of public morals, and mixing of the sexes in public. Judges have the latitude to mete out corporal punishment for those sentenced to death. In such cases, the flogging is carried out before death to maximize the suffering of defendant. Aside from flogging, the Islamic Republic also employs amputations as a punishment for theft. In such cases, the defendant is taken to a hospital and put under anesthesia as his hand or foot is amputated. In some cases the left foot and right hand are cut off, making it difficult for the condemned to walk, even with the assistance of a cane or crutches.

The Islamic Republic's Systematic Violation of its International Obligations under International Law

The use of corporal punishment is contrary to international law and is addressed in several international agreements. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, states that, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Identical language is also used in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran is also a party to. The strongest expression of international disapproval is contained in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). This treaty defines torture as, "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as ... punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed." Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has yet to sign the CAT, the prohibition on torture is now considered jus cogens and, therefore, part of customary international law. Furthermore, even though the norm against corporal punishment is not yet a jus cogens, there is increasing evidence that it is illegal under international human rights law.[1] In Osbourne v. Jamaica, the Committee Against Torture (a body of experts responsible for monitoring compliance with the Convention) held that "corporal punishment constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment contrary to Article 7 of the Convention." The Islamic Republic of Iran's systematic violations of its obligations under international law have been addressed by the UN General Assembly multiple times, most recently in December 2007. In Resolution 62/168, the UN expressed deep concern with Iran's continued flouting of international human rights law, particularly, "confirmed instances of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations."