International Federation of Human Rights
Death Penalty, a State Terror Policy
International Federation for Human Rights
April 30, 2009
Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignityand rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
IRAN: DEATH PENALTY
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of FIDH and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.
At a time when momentum is gathering across the world to abolish capital punishment1, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) currently ranks second for number of executions, after China, and first for per capita executions in the world. According to the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, Iran executed at least 3172 people in 2007, almost twice as many as in 2006 and four times as many as in 2005. In 2008, at least 346 executions were recorded3. From January through the end of March 2009, Amnesty International has recorded 120 executions. These numbers are certainly below reality, since there are no publicly available statistics on executions carried out in the country.
Alerted by the increasing number of executions on the one hand, and the persistence of practices that expressly contravene international human rights standards relating to the death penalty on the other, FIDH decided to carry out a study on the application of capital punishment in Iran. The present report is based on documented research. The facts and figures in this study are based on reports of the most reliable and non-partisan international human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, FIDH, Hands off Cain and Human Rights Watch (HRW). United Nations sources as well as newspapers published in Iran have also been used. Furthermore, we have used the original Iranian government sources, i.e. the judiciary, the parliament and other state organs, to access laws and regulations applicable in the IRI. It is unfortunate that, despite repeated requests over the past few years, Iran has not yet allowed FIDH to carry out a fact-finding mission within its borders4.
While exact figures are not available, occasional announcements of the authorities give rise to estimates that a large number of people are currently on death row in Iran. The prosecutor of the northeastern city of Mashhad announced on 17 September 2008 that there were 500 death-row convicts in that city for drug-related offences alone; others await death sentences on different charges. Two weeks earlier, the police commander of Dashtestan, a town of 250,000 people in the southern Bushehr province, told a local newspaper that 150 people were on death row in the town on charge of murder alone. In March 2007, Mr. Shahriyari, a Member of Parliament for Zahedan confirmed in an interview that 700 people were on death row in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province.
A wide range of offences are punishable by death in Iran, ranging from a number of sexual offences (e.g. fornication, adultery, sodomy, lesbianism, incest, rape) to drinking, theft, drug trafficking, murder, and certain other offences (e.g. apostasy and cursing the prophet), ‘waging war' on people/God and ‘corruption on earth' - offences that may extend from armed robbery to political opposition or espionage. A number of economic offences are also punishable by death.
Executions are frequently implemented in large numbers. Over the past two years, for example, the following were some of the collective executions that were recorded:
Despite a moratorium on public executions issued by the head of the judiciary in February 2008, many executions still take place in public, as may be noted in the case of the abovementioned executions in Birjand and Dashtestan.
The scope of this report does not extend to other violations of the right to life, in particular extrajudicial killings and deaths in custody. The Islamic Republic has a long history of extrajudicial executions, carried out both at home and abroad. The number of such executions estimated to have taken place within Iran in the few years leading up to autumn of 1998 ranges from 80 to 140. The figure would probably rise to a minimum of 400 if the cases abroad were to be included. Many of those cases have not been and could not be documented.
As regards death in custody, it remains a very serious cause for concern in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Well-publicised and best documented cases in recent years notably include the following: Zahra (Ziba) Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, who was killed as a result of a blow to her skull on 11 July 20035. A student activist, Akbar Mohammadi6, died in Evin prison on 30/31 July 2006. Valiollah Feyz-e Mahdavi, a People's Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) member, also died in Evin prison, on 5 September 20067. Ms Zahra Baniyaghoub, a young general practitioner, died in a Hamedan detention centre on 13 October 20078 and the authorities said she had hanged herself. Ebrahim Lotfollahi, a Kurdish law student died in Sanandaj prison on 15 January 20089. Amir Hossein Heshmat-Saran, a political prisoner, died in Rajaishahr prison, near Karaj, on 6 March 2009. He was serving the fifth year of his 16-year prison term. Omidreza Mirsayafi, a blogger, died in Evin prison, on 18 March 200910.
The death penalty has been in widespread use in Iran for many years, the figures jumping drastically since the 1979 revolution. Immediately after the revolution, the new government of the Islamic Republic, whose leaders had previously sided with criticism of the Shah's human rights record, launched a wave of executions. The first year after the revolution bore witness to the execution of a number of politicians, generals and secret police agents of the former regime who had not managed to flee the country. A number of lower level police were reportedly not spared either.
While the number of executions ranged around several hundred in the two years after the Islamic revolution, a sharp increase was registered in 1981 following the bloody suppression of the opposition groups and the clashes between the security forces and those groups, notably the PMOI, in June that year. Amnesty International recorded 2,616 executions during 1981, but the real figures are believed to be considerably higher. The trials, if any, were reportedly summary and the defendants were not given the possibility to appoint lawyers or to present their cases11. The victims in that year included a large number of juveniles and many women.
Massacre of 1988
The figures show a fall in the number of executions in subsequent years until 1988. In summer of 1988, however, at the direct orders of Ayatollah Khomeini, the judicial authorities began organising renewed summary trials for a large number of political prisoners, who had already stood trial and were serving their prison terms; many were then executed. The IRI authorities have never acknowledged the executions of that year and have consistently prevented attempts by families of the victims to mark the anniversary of the executions each year. Over the last few months, measures have been taken to demolish the Khavaran Cemetery, the burial ground of some of those victims, prompting protests from their families and human rights organisations in Iran and abroad. On the other hand, sources from within12 the IRI have alleged that those executions took place in the aftermath of an offensive launched by the PMOI, under the auspices of the Iraqi regime, in the summer of 1988 following a ceasefire between Iran and Iraq in their 8-year war. However, according to Ervand Abrahamian, professor of history at Baruch College in the USA, the process and preparations for the mass executions began on 19 July 1988, five days before the PMOI launched their offensive13.
Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the then designate-leader to succeed Ayatollah Khomeini, whose protests against the executions cost him his title and led to his subsequent fall from grace, has produced an undated hand-written letter of Ayatollah Khomeini to the judicial officials in his memoires. In that letter, which makes absolutely no reference to the PMOI offensive, Ayatollah Khomeini decreed that all prisoners who still adhered to their beliefs were 'mohareb' 14 who must be sentenced to death15. In a subsequent letter in reply to the then head of the judiciary seeking clarification concerning prisoners already sentenced and serving their sentences, the ayatollah reaffirmed his decree16.
At the ayatollah's express command, a three-member commission was set up in Tehran, consisting of the chief religious judge of the Islamic Revolutionary Courts (Ayatollah Nayyeri), the public prosecutor of Tehran (Mr. Morteza Eshraqi17) and a representative of the Ministry of Intelligence (Hojjatoleslam Mostafa Purmohammadi18). Corresponding commissions were also set up in the provincial capitals.
The commissions operated without any legal authorisation as de facto courts. All accounts are unanimous that the subsequent summary "trials" lasted only a few minutes each without any lawyers or any possibility of presenting defence. Most prisoners were not even told that they were being tried again and were instead led to believe they were being questioned with the purpose of being moved to other wards within the prisons. The prisoners, if they were members of the PMOI, were questioned about their organisational affiliation. If the answer was "the Mujahedin" organisation, the proceedings came to an abrupt end and they were taken away to be executed. If they answered "the Monafeqin"19, they would face further questions to test if they had truly rejected their organisational allegiance. Many prisoners did not pass the tests and were subsequently executed. Thousands of leftist prisoners were questioned concerning their beliefs. When questioned about their belief in God, if they answered in the negative, they were sentenced to death for apostasy or atheism and then executed. To borrow the words of Professor Ervand Abrahamian, those tragic events resembled the Spanish Inquisition.
Estimates of number of executions since the Islamic revolution
The following table has been compiled mainly based on annual reports issued by Amnesty International. However, figures from other sources have also been incorporated when available. Both Amnesty International and other human rights organisations such as Hands Off Cain, that started publishing its annual reports in 2000, have taken care to note in all their reports that the actual figures could be much higher. Some reasons for the inaccuracies are as follows:
1. The Iranian authorities do not publish official figures of executions.
Table: Minimum number of executions, 1979-2009 (March)
Domestic legal framework: Crimes resulting in the death penalty
The death penalty is meted out mostly under the hodood section, and the qesas section in the case of murder, as well as once under the ta'zirat section for ‘cursing the prophet'. However, the Iranian legal system distinguishes also between punishments considered to be the sole ‘right of Allah' and those considered to be the ‘right of the people.' The former have a ‘public aspect' and withdrawal of complaint shall not have any effect on them, e.g. punishment for fornication. An example of the ‘right of people' is qesas31 or retributive punishment. Under the law, the Supreme Leader32 may grant amnesty if a crime violated the ‘right of Allah' in cases that do not fall under hodood punishments, but he cannot grant amnesty if the ‘right of people' has been violated.
A large number of extremely heterogeneous crimes entail the death sentence in Iran. In addition, the Bill for amendment of the IPC that will extend the scope of capital punishment, and criminalise certain actions currently not regarded as offence, is a serious cause for concern (This will be explained below).
Fornication: Article 63 of the IPC defines fornication33 as sexual intercourse between persons not married to each other, i.e. "copulation of a man with a woman, who is naturally forbidden to him, even from behind." Fornicators shall be lashed 100 times. However, a man or a woman who has been convicted for fornication several times shall be killed34 on the fourth count, provided that s/he has been convicted and received the lashing penalty in the previous three instances (Article 90). However, Article 82 of the IPC specifies that the death penalty shall be meted out to fornicators without exception in the following cases: incest, fornication with stepmother (the man shall be killed), fornication of a non-Moslem with a Moslem woman (the man shall be killed), and rape (the rapist shall be killed).
Adultery:35 In the case of sexual intercourse between married men with single or married women or married women with single or married men, the punishment stipulated by the IPC is stoning of the married person. The single party in such a relationship would usually be sentenced to 100 lashes for fornication. In practice, the conditions set out for stoning are very detailed. Article 102 provides that "men shall be buried in a pit up to vicinity of the waist and women up to the chest in order to be stoned." Both hands of the condemned are also placed under the earth. And Article 104 determines the size of the stones: "The stones used for stoning shall not be too large to kill the condemned by one or two throws and not too small to be called a stone."
Same sex relations: Anal sex ['lavat'] is copulation with a male with or without penetration36 (Article 108, IPC). The penalty for anal sex involving penetration is death for both parties provided that they are adults, mature and of free will (Articles 109 and 111), but consenting immature parties shall be lashed 74 times. The penalty for sexual conduct without penetration [tafkhiz37] is 100 lashes. The penalty in this case, on the fourth count, is also death, provided that the condemned persons have been convicted three times and received their flogging sentence in those instances. Otherwise, if same sex relations without penetration occur between a non-Moslem and a Moslem as a passive partner, the former shall be killed (Note to Article 121).
The penalty for lesbianism is also death on the fourth count, provided that the condemned persons have been convicted three times before and received 100 lashes in those three instances (Article 131).
Accusation of fornication & sodomy38: Anybody who accuses others of having committed fornication or having been sodomised may be punished by death on the fourth count, provided that the convict has received the due punishment of 74 lashes in the first three instances (Article 157)39.
Obscene audio-visual products: The Law for Punishment of Persons with Unauthorised Activities in Audio-Visual Operations, passed in January 2008, prescribes the punishment befitting of the ‘corrupt on earth40' persons for producers of obscene products by force, producers of such products intended for sexual abuse and principal perpetrators of those products (Article 3). Under Article 4, persons who use such products to blackmail others "to fornicate with them" shall be sentenced to punishment for rape. Consequently, all those offences can be punished by the death penalty.
Article 179 of the IPC foresees the death penalty for drinking alcoholic beverages on the third count, provided that the condemned person has received the punishment of 80 lashes on each of the first two counts.
Theft is punishable by death on the fourth count even if it is committed in prison, provided that the convict has received the due punishment in the first three instances. Under the law, the punishment for the first time is amputation of four fingers of the right hand and for the second time amputation of the left foot. A third-time thief is to be imprisoned for life (Article 201).
Armed & political offences
Section seven of the Hodood chapter of the IPC deals with two key concepts that also appear frequently in other laws. They are moharebeh and efsad-e fel-arz41 and may carry the death sentence for the condemned. Article 183 of the IPC provides the following definition: "Anybody who takes up arms to create fear and to divest people of their freedom and security is mohareb and mofsed-e fel-arz." Anybody convicted of being mohareb or mofsed-e fel-arz or both may be sentenced to death at the behest of the ruling judge, who also holds the power of meting out three alternative sentences (Article 190)42.
Persons convicted of crimes committed with arms such as armed robbery and highway banditry shall be deemed as mohareb, if they use arms to undermine people's security and create terror and fear (Article 185).
The provisions of this section of the IPC also address some of the anti-government activities. Articles 186 -188 indeed refer to political offences, although they carefully avoid the use of the term. Under those articles, all members and sympathisers of groups or organisations ‘waging armed insurrection against the Islamic government' are regarded as mohareb and mofsed-e felarz and may receive the death sentence, even if they were not personally involved in military action. The provisions of the law are not confined to armed activities alone. "Anybody or any group plotting to topple the Islamic government, who procures arms and explosives for this purpose, or anybody who knowingly provides facilities... for such purposes, shall be deemed as mohareb and mofsed-e fel-arz" and may be sentenced to death.
Assassination attempt on Iranian and foreign leaders: Assassination attempts on the ‘leader, heads of any of three branches of power and the ‘sources of emulation43' may carry the death sentence. This may be inversely deducted from the wording of Article 515 of the IPC, which provides for an ‘imprisonment sentence of 3-10 years if the culprit is not proved to be a mohareb.'
‘The same punishment as under Article 515 could be meted out to anybody making an assassination attempt on foreign heads of state or foreign ambassadors, provided that the country in question reciprocated in relation to Iran (Article 516).
Armed Forces: Anybody who ‘incites the fighting forces or other persons serving the armed forces somehow to rebel, desert, surrender or not to perform military duties, shall be deemed to be a mohareb, if their intention is to topple the government or the defeat of the forces facing the enemy...' (Article 504). While this is the only instance of reference to offences related to the armed forces in the IPC, the Armed Forces Offences Law mentions numerous crimes that may be punished by the death sentence.
Passed in December 2003, the said law stipulates that military personnel, and any civilian convicted of perpetrating offences in connection with military personnel, shall be deemed as ‘mohareb' in numerous cases, including spying. A few examples include: devising plans to topple the government or effective involvement in an association for that purpose, taking action to harm the territorial integrity of the country, surrendering the personnel or bases under their command or submitting documents to the enemy, conspiring with the enemy, helping a government at war with the country or the mohareb and mofsed groups, taking armed action against the Islamic Republic, providing the enemy with documents and information harmful to the security of military facilities, submitting secrets of the armed forces to the enemy, disobeying commands leading to enemy's domination of territory or the army's personnel, failing to use weapons or other facilities to fight hence leading to the defeat of the 'Islamic front', willfully sleeping while on guard duty against enemies and the moharebs, on the condition that the action leads to disruption of the national security or the defeat of the 'Islamic front' (Articles 17, 19, 20-24, 29-35, 37, 39, 42-44, 51, 65, 71-74, 78, 87, 92-94, 115).
Offences related to religion
Apostasy44: Article 26 of the Press Code of 1985 expressly states: "Anybody who insults Islam and its sanctities by means of the press, amounting to apostasy, shall receive the sentence for apostasy..." However, the applicable IPC has not defined apostasy nor has it stipulated any punishment for it. Nevertheless, Article 214 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which has incorporated the provisions of Article 167 of the Constitution almost verbatim, has given judges a free hand45. Thus, judges have invoked the said Article 214 to mete out the death sentence in many apostasy cases on the basis of the views of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the IRI46. In his book, Ayatollah Khomeini declares that only three groups of people are recognised outside of Islam, who should pay a specific tax, jazieh, if they wish to live under the Islamic rule: Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. He expressly declares: "Nothing shall be accepted from others outside of those three groups but Islam or death47."
Cursing the prophet48: This section is the closest that the applicable IPC comes to addressing apostasy though the wording of the law is rather vague and allows extensive interpretation. "Anybody who insults the sanctities of Islam and/or any of the grand prophets or the infallible imams or [prophet Mohammad's daughter] shall be executed if the case is considered to be cursing of the prophet..."(Article 513).
Murder is punishable under a section of the IPC headlined qesas49. The Iranian legal system considers murder to be a matter between private parties and therefore does not refer to its punishment as the 'death penalty' or execution. Theoretically, it is not the state but the survivors of the victim or 'heirs of the blood' who impose retribution on the culprit. In practise, in qesas cases the judicial authorities execute the murderer, if the family of the victim demand execution of the murderer. Survivors of a murder victim may alternatively decide to withdraw their demand for retribution (i.e. execution) of the murderer in exchange for financial compensation (diyeh) and let the murderer free.
The legal provisions relating to murder are discriminatory on several levels as follows.
Impunity for certain murderers: Even though it is not expressly stated, the IPC does not treat all murderers equally. Murder may be retaliated only if the victim did not deserve to die under the provisions of the shari'a (Article 226). This provision has been further underlined in Article 295 (Note 2), which reprieves people who "kill someone in the belief that they are enforcing retaliation or if the murdered person is a person whose blood deserves to be wasted50..." This killing with impunity provision has given room to fanatic extremists to take the law in their own hands. In March 2003, six members of the paramilitary Baseej51 organisation were arrested in the southeastern city of Kerman and charged with killing two women and three men, amidst reports that a total of 18 people had been killed by similar methods throughout the preceding year. After a lengthy process involving several trials, Branch 31 of the Supreme Court repealed the qesas sentences against the six defendants in early 2008 on the grounds that "they believed the victims deserved to have their blood wasted, they [the murderers] were members of families of martyrs... and had offered evidence to substantiate their belief in court.52"
While killing with impunity may be resorted to in cases of legitimate defence (Article 629), victims of the Kerman murders were killed on the grounds that they had allegedly committed vice. By implication, the notion of killing with impunity may also be employed to kill anybody ‘deserving' a retaliatory death penalty. The IPC, for example, expressly provides for impunity of the killer of adulterers. "A husband who sees his wife committing adultery with another man may kill both of them in that position, if he is sure that the woman has consented; if the woman is reluctant, he may kill the man only..." (Article 630).
Discrimination between Moslems and non-Moslems: The IPC does not prescribe retaliation if a non-Moslem is killed. Retaliation for murder applies if the victim is a Moslem or if both the murderer and the victim are non-Moslems. "If a Moslem is killed, the murderer shall be subjected to qesas..." (Article 207; emphasis added). On the other hand: "In the event that an infidel53 intentionally kills another infidel, s/he shall be subjected to retribution even if the two are followers of different religions..." (Article 210).
Discrimination in favour of fathers and grandfathers: In February 2008, a man took the law into his own hands when he stoned his 14-year-old daughter, Sa'eedeh, for her relationship with a boy in Zahedan (Quds newspaper, 13 February 2008)54. The man said that he had shot his daughter four times after stoning her. There have been no further reports as to how the judiciary has dealt with the case. However, under the patriarchal provisions of the IPC, "a father (or paternal grandfather) who kills his child" (or grandchild) "will not be sentenced to qesas but to payment of diyeh [compensation] to survivors of the victim and ta'zir [discretionary punishment]" (Article 220). Survivors of the victim, i.e. the mother if the father is the killer (or parents, if the grandfather is the killer), generally forgo the demand for punishment.
Some economic offences are also considered capital crimes. The Law for Punishment of Disrupters of the National Economic System55, passed in 1990, stipulates the death sentence for certain offences, if they are intended to ‘strike at the Islamic Republic of Iran or combat it or if they are committed with the knowledge that they are effective in combating the said regime, provided that they amount to corruption on earth'56 (Article 2). The offences include but are not limited to: disrupting the monetary or exchange system through major acts of smuggling, disrupting the distribution of staple diets through overpricing on a macro level or speculating, and disrupting the production system (Article 1).
Drug- related offences
The Law for Amendment of the Anti-Narcotics Law & Annexation of Other Articles to It (November 1997) lays down the death sentence for drug-related offences in several instances. They include: planting poppies or coca, or cannabis with intention to produce drugs, on the fourth conviction; smuggling more than 5 kilograms of opium, cannabis or grass etc into Iran; buying, keeping, carrying or hiding more than 5 kilos of opium and the other aforementioned drugs, on the third conviction; smuggling into Iran, dealing, producing, distributing and exporting more than 30 grams of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their derivatives.
Other capital offences
Under an amendment to a law passed in 1967, in the event of death as a result of consumption of foodstuffs, drinks, cosmetics or sanitary items, the producer, preparer or mixer may face the death sentence (Article 3 of amendment dated 8 March 1975). Some other specific laws have also stipulated the death sentence, e.g. the Law for Punishment of Disrupters of Oil Industry, the Law for Punishment of Disrupters of Water, Electricity and Telecommunication Facilities, the Law for Punishment of Disrupters of Flight Security, the Law for Punishment of Offences concerning Railways, the Law for Increase of Punishment for Arms Smuggling.
Bill for amendment of IPC
The applicable Islamic Penal Code has been in place since 1991 on a ‘trial basis'57. In November 2007, the judiciary submitted a new bill for a permanent legislation. The Bill for amendment to the Islamic Penal Code58, which the parliament [majlis] passed in its first reading, i.e. the generalities, in September 2008, indeed overhauls the IPC in many ways, and has an impact on the application of the death penalty. When passed in its final reading, it has to be approved by the Council of Guardians59 to become a law. However, there is little chance that this conservative body will reject it for the incompatibility of its provisions with international human rights laws.
Death sentence withdrawn or its scope reduced in the bill
The draft bill has omitted the death penalty in some cases and reduced its scope in other instances. These include the following:
1. Same sex relations between men: If the relationship involves penetration, the active partner shall not be killed unless he has forced the other party or if he is married. The passive partner shall still receive the death penalty. If it does not involve penetration, each party shall receive 100 lashes. But the active partner shall still be killed if he is not a Moslem.
Scope of death sentence widened in the bill
The scope of the 'corruption on earth' and 'moharebeh' cases that carry the death sentence has been widened under the draft bill. Anybody who commits the following vaguely-worded offences on an 'extensive level' shall be found to be 'corrupt on earth' and receive the punishment for moharebeh: actions against the internal or external security of the country, disruption of the economy, arson, destruction and terror, distribution of dangerous poisonous and microbiological matters, and establishment of prostitution and corruption centres (Article 228-10).
The draft bill is, however, contradictory regarding the punishment for the ‘corrupt-on-earth' and mohareb persons. On the one hand, "a mohareb shall receive the death penalty if s/he has killed somebody" (Article 228-5-1). On the other hand, even if it is not certain whether s/he has killed anybody, s/he shall be sentenced to death, e.g. "any group that wages armed insurrection based on political theory against the Islamic Republic of Iran is an insurgent group [and its members] who use arms and explosives shall be regarded as mohareb and sentenced to death" (Article 228 - 11). Therefore, one may be sentenced to death only for being armed without having committed murder.
The draft bill also provides for the death sentence in the following cases, which are not included
Apostasy, heresy & witchcraft60: Articles 225-1 through 225-14 of the bill discuss these topics. An apostate is any Moslem who denies Islam and converts to infidelity. There are two types of apostates. An innate apostate61 is a person born to Moslem parents and therefore a Moslem. A parental apostate62 is a person born to non-Moslem parents, who converts to Islam after maturity and later denies Islam. The punishment is death in both cases, though the latter shall be given three days to repent, in which case he shall escape death. The related provisions enforce ‘positive' discrimination for female apostates, who shall be given life imprisonment in both cases.
This provision has for the first time introduced the crime of apostasy in the penal code. The applicable laws do not contain any provisions on apostasy. Nevertheless, this exclusion did not prevent the execution of a large number of members of opposition groups on charges of apostasy or atheism in both 1981 and 1988. There have been few reports on apostasy cases in recent years. According to a 21 December 2008 report, a man by the name of Alireza Payghan, claiming to be the 12th imam of the Shiite and author of a book on the topic, was sentenced on charge of apostasy and executed in Qom on 18 December. He had been arrested in November 2006 and, based on rulings of "some sources of emulation", had been found to be an apostate and a "corrupt on earth" person. The government newspaper, The daily Iran, did not report on Payghan's claim, only noting: "he was spreading warship of superstition". In 2007, another man by the name of Darvish, also claiming to be the 12th imam, had been executed in Qom. Ayatollah Khomeini's book, Tahrir ul-Vassileh, is the most frequently invoked source in apostasy cases. The draft bill's definitions of an apostate as well as the pertaining punishments have been taken from that book, as have many other definitions and punishments63.
Heresy: Anybody who claims to be a prophet is to be condemned to death and any Moslem who devises a heresy and based on it creates a sect, which is detrimental to Islam, shall be considered an apostate, and thus subject to the death sentence. While Christianity, Judaism and the Zoroastrianism are recognised under the Constitution, this provision seems to be directed at followers of the Baha'i minority, who have suffered ongoing persecution since the 1979 revolution (see section on Religious minorities).
Witchcraft also carries the death sentence. The draft bill does not rule out the reality of witchcraft, nor does it condemn non-Moslems in this relation: "Any Moslem who is involved with witchcraft and promotes it in the society as a profession or a sect shall be condemned to death."
Other draft legislation
There is another short piece of legislation in progress that is referred to as "the bill for intensification of punishments for disturbing psychological security of the society64 ." The bill indeed overlaps with the IPC and the draft bill mentioned above supposed to amend it. It is likely that legislators will later incorporate the provisions of "the bill for intensification of punishments for disturbing psychological security of the society" in the draft bill for amendment of IPC. The new short piece of legislation was passed in its first reading in July 2008 and has not yet been finalised. Article 2 outlines the offences the bill would address as "banditry65 and armed robbery, rape, forming of corruption and prostitution gangs, establishment of blogs and websites that propagate corruption, prostitution and atheism , smuggling of humans for sexual purposes, evil-doing, kidnapping for the purpose of rape or extortion." Article 3 stipulates the punishment for these offences to be the same as those for 'mohareb' and 'mofsed-e fel-arz' if "the offenders do not deserve any other punishment."
Once again the vague wording leaves it wide open to interpretation to determine what actions qualify as "evil doing" or "corruption." Furthermore, if and when passed, the new legislation could be used as a tool against the rights to freedom of expression and access to information through the Internet.
One more bill being deliberated in the parliament concerns smuggling of arms and ammunition. According to the bill, which was passed in the first reading (the generalities) on 16 December 2008, keeping of heavy weapons, armed resistance of such perpetrators against government agents, smugglers of radioactive and microbiological stuff and armed resistance of smugglers of military or chemical explosives against government agents can be punished by death66.
International legal framework
Iran is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since 1975. Article 6 of the Covenant enshrines the right to life, and provides that: "In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime (...) Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant."
The last time the Human Rights Committee overseeing the implementation of the Covenant examined the report of the Islamic Republic of Iran was in 1993. At that time, the UN Human Rights Committee deplored "the extremely high number of death sentences that were pronounced and carried out in the IRI during the period under review, many of which resulting from trials in which the guarantees of due process of law had not been properly applied. In the light of the provision of article 6 of the Covenant, requiring States parties that have not abolished the death penalty to limit it to the most serious crimes, the Committee considers the imposition of that penalty for crimes of an economic nature, for corruption and for adultery, or for crimes that do not result in loss of life, as being contrary to the Covenant. The Committee also deplores that a number of executions have taken place in public67."
Since that time, the Iranian authorities have not submitted periodic reports to the treaty body under the Covenant. Such a report has been due since 1994.
The IRI also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994. It made, however, a general reservation under which "The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves the right not to apply any provisions or articles of the Convention that are incompatible with Islamic Laws and the international legislation in effect." In that regard, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, a body composed of independent experts, expressed its deep regret "that no review has been undertaken of the broad and imprecise nature of the State party's reservation since the submission of the initial report. It reiterates its concern that the nature of the general reservation potentially negates many provisions of the Convention and raises concern as to its compatibility with the object and purpose of the Convention." The Committee consequently reiterated "its previous recommendation that the State party review the general nature of its reservation with a view to withdrawing it, or narrowing it, in accordance with the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights of 199368."
The Convention notes, "a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years" (Article 1) and "recognises that every child has the inherent right to life" (Article 6). "Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age" (Article 37).
The Iranian Civil Code stipulates: "Rules and treaties concluded, in accordance with the Constitution, between the Iranian government and other governments shall have the force of law" (Article 9). It may therefore be concluded that the Convention has the force of law in Iran, under which no person under the age of 18 should be sentenced to death69.
The last time it examined the respect by the Iranian authorities for their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2005, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the State party "to take the necessary steps to immediately suspend the execution of all death penalties imposed on persons for having committed a crime before the age of 18, to take the appropriate legal measures to convert them into penalties in conformity with the provisions of the Convention and to abolish the death penalty as a sentence imposed on persons for having committed crimes before the age of 18, as required by article 37 of the Convention.70" The same Committee had already issued a similar recommendation in 200071.
The Committee also reiterated its serious concern with article 220 of the Islamic Penal Code, which provides that a father who kills his own child, or a grandfather who kills his son's child, is only required to pay blood money and is subjected to a discretionary punishment and recommended that "the State party take the necessary measures, including the amendment of the offending article of the Penal Code, to ensure that there is no discriminatory treatment for such crimes and that prompt and thorough investigations and prosecutions are carried out"72.
In addition, the Committee notably urged the State party to:
To date, it appears that the Iranian authorities have not implemented any of the recommendations issued by both the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concerning the death penalty.
In the General Comment on Article 6 of the ICCPR, adopted in 1982, the Human Rights Committee established that this article "refers generally to abolition [of the death penalty] in terms which strongly suggest (...) that abolition is desirable. The Committee concludes that all measures of abolition should be considered as progress in the enjoyment of the right to life"73. The same General Comment stated that death penalty should be reserved only for the "most serious crimes", which is interpreted as meaning that death penalty should not be awarded for crimes beyond intentional crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences74. The Human Rights Committee established under the ICCPR has stated that "the imposition of the death penalty for offences which cannot be characterized as the most serious, including apostasy, committing a third homosexual act, illicit sex, embezzlement by officials, and theft by force, is incompatible with Article 6 of the Covenant75."
In 1984, the UN Economic and Social Council adopted the Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty. In the same year, the Safeguards were endorsed, endorsed by consensus by the UN General Assembly. Safeguard 1 states: "In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, capital punishment may be imposed only for the most serious crimes, it being understood that their scope should not go beyond intentional crimes, with lethal or other extremely grave consequences76."
As specified by the UN Commission on Human Rights, States should "ensure that the notion of "most serious crimes" does not go beyond intentional crimes with lethal or extremely grave consequences and that the death penalty is not imposed for non-violent acts such as financial crimes, nonviolent religious practice or expression of conscience and sexual relations between consenting adults77." It is clear that the scope of the death penalty in Iran encompasses far more than what international law considers 'the most serious crimes'.
As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions in his 2005 annual report, "the legislation of a significant number of States provides for the death penalty to be mandatory in certain circumstances. The result is that a judge is unable to take account of even the most compelling circumstances to sentence an offender to a lesser punishment, even including life imprisonment. Nor is it possible for the sentence to reflect dramatically differing degrees of moral reprehensibility of such capital crimes."78 However, for an important number of crimes in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the death penalty is a mandatory sentence, in violation of international human rights standards.
Lastly, every year since 2003, the UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Iran, which consistently raises the issue of the death penalty79. The resolutions adopted in December 2007 and December 2008 request the UN Secretary General to present a detailed report on the human rights situation in the IRI80.
The right to a fair trial
The Iranian Constitution enshrines various rights closely connected to the right to a fair and independent trial: equal protection by the law (Art. 20)81 the right to recourse to the courts (Art. 34), the right to counsel (Art. 35), sentencing in accordance with the law (Art. 36), the presumption of innocence (Art. 37), and the prohibition of torture (Art. 38). However, those rights are widely jeopardised because of the total dependence of all state institutions- including the judiciary - on the Supreme Leader.
As noted by the UN Secretary General in his recent report on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran:
In addition, special tribunals issue the largest number of death sentence, for example the Islamic Revolutionary Courts deal with certain categories of offences, including crimes against national security and narcotics smuggling as well as a number of other offences. A Special Court for Clergy (SCC) deals exclusively with offences committed by clerics or other people if the offence is somehow related to the clergy. Special tribunals are also set up arbitrarily. For example, the setting up of a special court under the auspices of "special judicial complex for security affairs" in Sistan-Baluchistan province in 2006 has led to a drastic rise in executions in the province. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, during its visit to Iran in 2003, raised concerns about the impact of such courts on the principle of equality before the law. The Working Group called for their functions to be transferred to the ordinary courts83.
Structure of the Iranian judiciary
While, in theory, the Islamic Revolutionary Courts are included in the structure of the judiciary, they still retain an administration which operates separately from the justice departments that are supposed to oversee them. On the other hand, the Special Court for Clergy (SCC) is completely independent of the judiciary and runs its own parallel and highly secretive judicial system, equipped with a prosecutor and appeals courts as well as its own specific detention centres and prisons. Unlike the sentences of general and Islamic Revolutionary Courts, even the death sentences issued by the SCC are not examined by the Supreme Court, but rather by the SCC appeals courts. Details of SCC cases occasionally leak to the news media notably when they involve politically prominent individuals.Whereas Article 159 of the Constitution requires the establishment of courts and their jurisdiction to be determined by law, legislators have never passed any legislation to sanction the establishment of the SCC.
When dealing with non-political cases, it can commonly take several years for a death penalty case to reach the final stage of execution. Many common criminals have been known to spend as many as 10 years or more on death row throughout the course of different appeals and investigations by the Supreme Court and, in the past in some cases, the deliberations of the Discernment Branch84 of the Supreme Court85. On the other hand, most political capital cases reach the final stage rather quickly, in the span of a year or two, which in some way may be regarded as a progress in comparison with the minutes-long trials of the 1980s. Nevertheless, political capital cases are routinely sent to certain branches of the Supreme Court that have a notorious record for ignoring the bills of defence and upholding the death sentences issued by the courts of first instance.
The right of defendants to have access to a lawyer during detention, interrogation and preliminary investigations is not recognised. Article 128 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides that even the presence of a lawyer at the stage of investigation in "cases of offences against the national security shall require the court's permission." FIDH is not aware of any case whereby the courts have permitted it. Judges have the power to bar lawyers from accompanying the defendants or even detain or imprison the lawyers if they protest against unfair proceedings or in some cases if they publicly shed light on unfair proceedings.
In many courts, the judge plays the role of the interrogator, prosecutor and judge all at the same time. In many criminal and in particular political trials, where the prosecutor or his representative appear, there is no difference between the attitude of the judge, who is expected to be neutral, and that of the prosecutor. In the overwhelming majority of criminal and political cases, judges do not presume that defendants are innocent until proved guilty. The guiding principle appears to be the other way round: defendants are guilty unless proved innocent. In an example from 2007, in the case of bombings in the Khuzestan province by Arab ethnic minority activists, several of the lawyers involved were detained and then charged with acting against national security after they had published a letter in which they protested against the trial procedures and the court's refusal to allow them to visit their clients. Though the lawyers in this case were later acquitted there have been other well-known cases of lawyers repressed because of their work. In 2005, the Tehran prosecutor charged Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, a well-known human rights lawyer, with spying and waging propaganda against the regime. He spent more than seven months in detention and was sentenced to five years imprisonment and five years deprivation from social services. Later, the appeals court acquitted him of all charges. Another lawyer, Mr. Nasser Zarafshan, who represented the family of a victim of the 1998 serial killings of writers and intellectuals, spent five years in prison, from 2002-2007, on charges of revealing information about the case86.
This denial of defendants' right to a lawyer and direct condemnation of lawyers doing their job blatantly violate the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which state that Governments shall ensure that "lawyers ( a ) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; ( b ) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and ( c ) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics" (Para. 16). The same Basic Principles further add: "Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions" (Para. 18).
Execution of juvenile offenders
Iran ranks as the world's top child executioner. Most other countries have stopped the practice as a result of international and domestic pressure87. Since 1999 through March 2009, at least 42 executions of juvenile offenders have been recorded in Iran, 12 of them in 2007 and eight in 2008, though the true figures are likely to be higher.
Iranian authorities have occasionally claimed that nobody under the age of 18 is executed in Iran. Most recently, President Ahmadinejad said: "In Iran youngsters are not executed. Where have they been executed? Our law actually sets 18 as the criminally liable age for capital punishment"88. Unfortunately, this statement bears little resemblance to reality, which becomes clear in looking at the facts as shown in the table below or with an examination of the applicable laws in Iran.
Indeed, laws exist, which are quite clear on this issue. For example, the Islamic Penal Code does stipulate that children are free from criminal liability, but it defines a child as "a person who has not reached the age of pubescence as stipulated by the sharia" (Article 49 and its Note). Further, the Iranian Civil Code that had previously set the age of maturity at 18 was amended in 1982 as follows: "The age of pubescence for boys is fifteen lunar years and for girls nine lunar years89" (Note 1 to Article 1210).
There have been some attempts to make those provisions compatible with the requirements of
In August 2006, parliament approved the Bill for Establishment of Children and Juveniles Courts in its first reading. The bill retained the IPC's definition of a child, i.e. "a person who has not reached the age of pubescence as stipulated by the sharia". But it stipulated the punishment of 2-8 years imprisonment in regard to capital offences committed by young people between ages of 15 and 18. Nevertheless, it contained a vaguely worded provision that would still empower judges to sentence minors to death. According to its Article 33, in qesas and hodood punishments, the court shall issue the said reduced sentence only "if the maturity and complete mental health of the culprit is in doubt." In July 2007, the Parliamentary Judicial Affairs Committee began examining the bill in detail, but it has neither been debated by the full House nor been made into law as of yet.
Before that in March 2005, the government had submitted "The Bill for Investigation of Offences of Children and Juveniles" to parliament. Finally, after a few years, parliament started deliberating it in late 2008 and passed it in the first reading (generalities) on 14 December. That bill also stipulates that young people between 15 and 18 years of age would be held in young people's correction centres from 2-8 years for offences legally punishable by death or life imprisonment (Article 33). Nevertheless, it is silent on the question of qesas and hodood punishments.
A similar trend is noticeable in the draft Islamic Penal Code, which has been approved in parliament's first reading in September 2008 (see Planned legislation above). There are contradictory definitions of a child in the said bill. Even though it sets the age of pubescence as 15 years for boys and 9 years for girls, it defines a child as "a person under the age of 18 solar years" (Article 141-1). It also stipulates that in the case of "hadd offences, pubescent children shall receive the punishments prescribed by the Law for Investigation of Offences of Children and Young People, provided that they do not understand the nature and forbiddenness of the crime" (Article 141-4). This provision will clearly give judges a free reign to issue the death sentence if they personally conclude that the under-age culprits did understand the "nature and forbiddenness of the crime." Evidently, parliament shall be required to make compatible the provisions of the two bills, i.e. the Bill for Investigation of Offences of Children and Juveniles and the draft Islamic Penal Code, and resolve their contradictions.
As illustrated in the table below, the widespread practice in Iran is to keep a minor convicted of a capital crime in prison until s/he grows to the age of 18 and then execute him/her. On 15 October 2008, Hossein Zebhi, Assistant Prosecutor General for Judicial Affairs, said that according to a circular letter of Ayatollah Shahroodi, head of the judiciary, juvenile offenders would no longer be executed90. Three days later, he retracted his statement. On 18 October, he asserted that qesas (retribution) "is the private right of the people, and the judiciary cannot intervene in" qesas cases, thus implying that executions of juvenile offenders would still be carried out. Indeed 11 days later, on 29 October, the judicial authorities hanged an Afghan national who had been 17 at the time of the crime (see No. 40 in the table below).
Table: Executions of minors, 1999 – MArch 2009
Note: The table has been compiled based on Amnesty International report “Iran: The last executioner of children” AI Urgent Actions, Stop Child Executions campaign and other sources mentioned in the table.
While execution of juveniles in Iran has been drawing increasing protests from the international community in particular in recent years, similar efforts are in progress within Iran. Most recently in November 2008, Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), headed by the Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, launched a campaign to abolish execution of juvenile offenders. Meanwhile, information collected in previous years shows that execution of juvenile offenders is a long-standing practice in Iran. More than 240 executions of juveniles were recorded in the course of 20 years from 1979 to 1999 and the true figure may be higher still. About 200 of those, including many girls, were executed during the turbulent years of 1981-83, in particular in 1981. Most of them were school students aged from 13 to 17, who faced death by firing squads for their involvement in opposition activities.
Iran ranks as the world's top child executioner. Most other countries have stopped the practice as a result of international and domestic pressure96. Since 1999 through March 2009, at least 42 executions of juvenile offenders have been recorded in Iran, 12 of them in 2007 and eight in 2008, though the true figures are likely to be higher.
As recently as July 2008, twenty-four international and regional human rights organizations published a joint statement calling on Iranian authorities to stop imposing the death penalty for crimes committed by juvenile offenders. According to the statement, "[a]lmost 140 juvenile offenders are known to be on death row in Iran, but the true figure could be even higher - for example, Mohammad Hassanzadeh's case was not known to campaigners prior to his execution97."
A spreadsheet entitled "Juvenile offenders log, last updated July 7, 2008", compiling information collected by Amnesty International, the human rights activist Emadeddin Baqi, Iran Human Rights and Stop Child Executions, disclosed that there were at least 13898 (five girls and 133 boys) Iranian nationals on death row who had been charged with crimes allegedly committed when they were under the age of 18. According to the same document, there were at least 16 Afghan juveniles on death row in Iranian prisons (see "Juvenile offenders log" in annex).
The religion of the overwhelming majority of the population in Iran is Shia Islam, itself a minority within the Islamic world. It is believed that between 80-90 per cent of Iranians are Shiites. Of the rest, about 7-9 per cent are said to be Sunnis, the branch of Islam that is in majority throughout the world. Officially, the rest of the population is composed of followers of different branches of Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Next to Sunnis, however, followers of Baha'ism are believed to constitute the largest religious minority99.
The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran has declared Islam to be the official religion of the country and has recognised only three other religions, i.e. Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity. Hence the Constitution has stipulated that followers of various sects of the Sunni branch of Islam as well as the other three recognised religions are free to practice their faith (Articles 12 and 13). Consequently, the Constitution has pointedly and deliberately failed to recognise other religious minorities in stark contrast to Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a State party.
The Baha'is are believed to number around 300,000 in Iran. Besides being deprived of many of their civil rights, followers of Bahai'sm have suffered the highest number of executions in comparison with any other religion in Iran. A written statement of the Baha'i International Community to the UN Economic and Social Council dated 3 February 2003 stated that since 1979 more than 200 Baha'is had been executed or otherwise killed and 15 had disappeared, who were also presumably dead100.
The Baha'i faith is regarded as the most dangerous form of apostasy101 by IRI authorities, one reason being that it originated in Iran in the nineteenth century102. More importantly, however, is its contention that its founder was a messenger of God. Islam recognises that there have been divine religions before it such as Judaism and Christianity, but it holds Prophet Mohammad as the ultimate prophet of God and Islam as the ultimate divine religion. Others, such as Baha'ism, are man-made religions and thus tantamount to apostasy. As noted previously, both Ayatollah Khomeini's book, Tahrir ul-Vassileh, and the Constitution lay the ground for the persecution of the Bahai's as apostates.
Consequently, in the past 30 years, Baha'is have been subjected to one of the most extensive religious persecutions in Iran in recent history. They have been consistently accused of apostasy, espionage for Israel and collaboration with Zionism, presumably because the Baha'i world headquarters are in Israel, where their founder is also buried.
At least two cases of execution of Baha'i juveniles have been documented. In June 1983, 10 Baha'i women were executed in Shiraz after they refused to deny their faith. Their charge was teaching Baha'i tenets to children. Muna Mahmudnejad, one of the 10, was 16 at the time of arrest and 17 when she was hanged in Adelabad prison of Shiraz. The second case concerns Payman Subhani, a 15-year-old boy, who was mobbed, beaten and stoned to death on the street in 1986.
Recognition of Christianity in the Constitution has not prevented persecution of Christians. Among the Christians, "non-ethnic" Christians103 have faced the greatest pressure most probably because, unlike the "ethnic" Christians, they have been involved in missionary activities. Furthermore, former Moslems who have converted from Islam account for the highest number of Christian victims of extrajudicial executions. They were considered to be guilty of apostasy. As far as the scope of this report is concerned, there have been several cases of extrajudicial executions of Christians as well as at least one judicial execution.
The only well known documented case of judicial execution of a Christian is Hossein Soodmand, pastor of Assemblies of God in Mashhad in eastern Iran. He was sentenced to death for apostasy and executed in December 1990. A blog documenting "martyrs of Christianity in Iran" alleged that "even his blind wife and young children were not granted mercy104." However, it did not provide more details about the faith of the family. The same blog has reported a number of extrajudicial executions of Christians, including several priests who had converted from Islam.
Four Christians were arrested in the northern city of Chalus on 5 May 2004 and sentenced to death, but they were later released in response to international protests.
Since late 2007, a large number of Christians have been detained - some of them later released - including 14 in Tehran in December 2007, 10 in Tehran and 16 in Esfahan in May 2008. Among them, Arash Basirat and Mahmood Matin-Azad were charged with apostasy in Shiraz, but were eventually acquitted and released after spending five months in prison. Ramtin Soodmand, son of Hossein Soodmand (see above), was also detained in late August 2008. At the time it was widely feared that he would face the charge of apostasy, a charge that could entail the death penalty. He was released on bail on 22 October 2008.
In the case of Sunni Moslems, it is at times extremely difficult to separate the religious minorities from ethnic minorities, because the overwhelming majority of Sunni Moslems belong to ethnic groups. Nevertheless, efforts have been made here to distinguish between cases directly related to religious discrimination and those related to political repression.
Sunni Moslems are officially given a higher status than other religious minorities. Article 12 of the Constitution declares the Shia of 12 Imams as the official religion, but accords ‘full respect to other branches of Islam'. It then stipulates that they are totally free to practise their religious rites and rituals and even recognises the primacy of their canon in courts in regard to inheritance and will, marriage, divorce and provides for the local regulations to be in line with their religion within the frameworks of law, in regions where they constitute the majority of the population.
This has not prevented the authorities from repressing the Sunnis even in areas where they are a majority, e.g. in Kurdish regions that include the Kurdistan, Kermanshah and Ilam provinces and some parts of the Western Azerbaijan province, Baluchistan, Turkmen Sahra in the northeast and the Arab population of Bushehr and Hormuzgan provinces105.
Like the Christians, most Sunni execution victims lost their lives in extrajudicial executions106. On 10 April 2008, however, two Sunni clerics, Molavi Abdolghodus Mollazahi and Molavi Mohammad Yusof Sohrabi, were hanged in Zahedan. They had been arrested following an attack by the security forces on the city's Sunni seminary in December 2007. A statement of the local Justice Department carried by the semi-official news agency, ISNA, referred to them as "disrupters of social security who intended to sow discord between the Shiites and the Sunnis107." On 4 March 2009, two more Baluchi Sunni clerics, Molavi Khalilollah Zare'i and Molavi Hafez Salaheddin Seyyedi were hanged in Zahedan prison. The Justice Department of Zahedan announced that they had been charged with "moharebeh and corruption on earth through menbership of terrorist groups". (Daily Jomhuri Eslami 5 March 2009)
There are a number of ethnic groups in Iran. Speakers of Persian and its various dialects are the largest ethnic group, forming about 50 per cent of the population by some accounts. Next to them, the most populous ethnic group is the Azerbaijani Turks (over 25% of the population), Kurds (7-10%), Arabs (2%), Baluchis (2%) and the Turkmens (more than 1%)108.
The Constitution stipulates that Persian, or Farsi as it is called in Iran, is the official language. It also allows the use of ethnic and local languages in the media and the teaching of their literature in schools alongside the Persian language (Article 15). The reality, however, is that various ethnic groups have consistently complained of the violations of their rights. Most Kurds, Baluchis, and Turkmens are followers of one or another branch of Sunni Islam, and consequently also constitute a religious minority. The Arabs living in southwestern Khuzestan are mostly Shiites, while those in the southern provinces of Bushehr and Hormuzgan are mostly Sunnis. The Azerbaijani Turkic speakers are also predominantly Shiites. There have been movements within all the ethnic minorities, demanding respect for their rights.
The nationalist movement has been strong in the Kurdish provinces of Iran for many years. Some Kurdish groups have been fighting the central government in Iran since 1979 and the demand for regional autonomy is strong; they have thus suffered the highest number of casualties in comparison with other ethnic groups. The Amnesty International report on the Kurdish minority says that following the conflicts in 1979, "Thousands of Kurds were sentenced to death after summary trials." The then religious judge, Ayatollah Khalkhali conducted group trials lasting a mere few minutes each and issued death sentences that were carried out immediately, most of them by firing squads. When criticised for his summary trials that could result in the death of innocent people, Ayatollah Khalkhali, who died in Qom in November 2004, was famously quoted as having said: "If they were guilty, they deserved the punishment. If they died innocently, they would go to Heaven"109.
While, a number of Kurdish opposition leaders lost their lives in the course of extrajudicial executions abroad110, cultural activists and journalists are also subjected to harsh repression. Many have been condemned to prison sentences, and some of them have been condemned to death.
The Arab minority, the majority of whose members live in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, like other ethnic minorities, has been denied its cultural rights and has faced repression both before and after the revolution. A few months after the 1979 revolution, there were clashes in Khuzestan that were suppressed by the government and scores of Arabs were sent to the gallows.
In April 2005, unrests in Khuzestan led to the death of many Arabs including some in alleged extrajudicial executions. The turbulence occurred following the surfacing of a letter allegedly written by Mr. Abtahi, an advisor to then President Khatami. The letter, dated 1999, the authen- ticity of which Mr Abtahi strongly denied, proposed the reduction of the Arab population in Khuzestan by transferring them to other parts of Iran. Subsequently, several bombs exploded in Ahvaz, the provincial capital of Khuzestan, as well as in Tehran, killing a number of people.
Seven men were shown on TV on 1 March 2006 and said to be convicted for involvement in the bombings. Two of them were hanged the day after. At least 11 other men were also said to be sentenced to death113. In 2006, 36 Arabs had been sentenced to death or lengthy prison terms; five were executed after unfair trials, two of them in public114. In 2007, at least eight were executed and 17 others were facing the death sentence after unfair trials115.
The Baluchis who are said to number more than 1.4 million live mostly in the Sistan-Baluchistan province in the southeast, bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan. Since the early 2000s, an armed Baluchi group, People’s Resistance Movement of Iran, known as the Jondollah116 has been fighting the Iranian government stating its aim as achieving a more democratic system and full rights of the Sunnis in Iran117. The response of the Iranian government has been very harsh.
The authorities appointed the former prosecutor of the Special Court for Clergy and former deputy prosecutor-general, Hojatoleslam Nekoonam, to head the Justice Department in Sistan and Baluchistan in 2006. Since then the number of death sentences and executions have risen drastically in the region. A large number of Baluchis have been arrested, tried and some of them executed within a few days of the trials. Most have been accused of drug trafficking and armed banditry, murder and kidnapping. It is not clear as to how many of them were involved in the opposition against the government.
Methods of execution
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, judges have the power to decide the method of execution, which they usually choose in relation to the offence. The most common method of execution is hanging. Other specific methods of execution include stoning to death, issued in cases of adultery, beheading and throwing from a cliff, which are occasionally issued for rape or sodomy. Some reported examples of those methods of execution are as follows: In 1987, a judge gave three people a choice between three methods of execution; they chose to jump over a cliff; in 1990, one man was thrown from a precipice; in 1991, one man was thrown from a cliff; in 2001, one man was beheaded119. In January 2008, two young men were sentenced to death by throwing from a height for rape in Fars province120.
As regards treatment of prisoners before they are executed, it is not possible to establish if there is a uniform practice nationwide, but in many cases, prisoners on death row are known to be taken out of the public ward and sent to solitary cells one or two days before the execu- tion date. The family of a death-row convict is notified of the impending execution in some cases, especially in cases of retributive (qesas121) death sentence, so that the family of the condemned still has a chance of pleading and negotiating over blood money with the family of the murdered person till the last moment122. The latter must be present to see the sentence carried out at their behest. In most other cases, especially in the case of political prisoners, the families are notified afterwards when they are asked to collect the personal effects of the prisoner123. Prisoners due to be executed are handcuffed and occasionally foot- shackled, in particular when they are to be hanged in public and have to be taken off the prison premises for that purpose.
Death-row prisoners were mostly hanged in public many years before the 1979 revolution, among other places, at a square in southern Tehran, which was called ‘Maydan-e E’dam’124, later renamed the Moham- madieh Square. Many people still call it by its old name. In the years leading to the revolution, executions took place mostly in prisons, but different locations have been used since then.
During the first years after the revolution, many prisoners were executed by firing squads inside prisons or in the case of Kurdish rebels outside the cities. Some were hanged from cranes or from bridges or on the streets and in the main squares, which remains a frequent practice. However, many prisoners are hanged inside prisons nowadays. Death-row prisoners may also be sentenced to flogging, in which case the flogging is administered before they are executed.
Under the Islamic Penal Code, it is an extremely difficult task to prove fornication/adultery. It may be proved if an offender confesses four times before a judge or by testimony of “four just men or three just men and two just women”125 who should have witnessed the exact action of penetration in sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. Less than four confessions by the defendant will lead to another punishment, possibly flogging. Furthermore, a judge may request that the Supreme Leader pardon a fornicator who confesses to fornication and then repents his/her action. There are other qualifying conditions, the absence of which should theoretically lead to annulment of testimonies and the dropping of the charge of fornica- tion or adultery126. Judges are, however, empowered to rule on the basis of their own “knowledge” in various cases. Hence, a good number of stoning as well as other sentences are issued on the basis of the “knowledge of the judge”. This is illegal even according to the letter of the Islamic Penal Code127.
In an interview128, Secretary of the Iranian Human Rights HQ, Mohammad Javad Larijani defended the stoning sentence, arguing it was a lesser punishment than execution, because the condemned person had the possibility of escaping. In practice, however, the conditions set out for stoning are very cruel129 as the following accounts show.
An eye-witness account published by Amnesty International in 1987 related the following experience:
“The lorry deposited a large number of stones and pebbles beside the waste ground, and then two women were led to the spot wearing white and with sacks over their heads… [they] were enveloped in a shower of stones and transformed into two red sacks… The wounded women fell to the ground and Revolutionary Guards smashed their heads in with a shovel to make sure they were dead130.”
In the more recent case of Ja’afar Kiani (see below), Shadi Sadr, a co-founder of the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign and lawyer of Ja’afar Kiani and his partner Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, provided the following shocking account:
“The stones were so large that there are even flaws in the provisions for implementation of the sentence… Unofficial reports … indicate that Ja’afar was still alive after stoning but his ear and nose had been smashed and slashed. When a forensic medicine specialist confirmed that he was still alive, Mr… [sic] smashed his head with a large concrete block and killed him131.”
Recent cases of stoning
Stoning sentences in Iran have received widespread coverage especially in recent years. Although the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroodi issued a moratorium on execution by stoning in December 2002, at least seven stoning sentences have been enforced since. In May 2006, a man and a woman, Abbas Hajizadeh and Mahboobeh Mohammadi, were stoned to death in the Behesht-e Reza cemetery in Mashhad, according to information initially unveiled by the investigative journalist, Asieh Amini. The case was not reported in the Iranian media.
In November 2006, the then spokesperson of the judiciary denied that stoning was practised in Iran. Though in July 2007, another stoning took place that received widespread publicity: Ja’afar Kiani was stoned to death in a village near the town of Takestan, for committing adultery with Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, who was also sentenced to stoning. The couple, who had two children, had been in prison for 11 years. The stoning took place despite the 2002 moratorium as well as a specific stay of execution of Kiani’s stoning ordered by the head of the judiciary.
Three months later, Secretary of Human Rights Head Quarters Mohammad Javad Larijani blamed the judge’s mistake in decision making for implementation of the sentence on Ja’afar Kiani. Nevertheless, he defended the appropriateness of the stoning sentence and denied that it was a kind of torture or violation of human rights132.
On 5 August 2008, the spokesperson of the Iranian judiciary announced that stoning sentences would no longer be implemented. He also said that the Supreme Leader had pardoned two people sentenced to stoning and reported that one other stoning sentence had been commuted to 10 years imprisonment and another to flogging. He noted the other stoning sentences were under review by the Amnesty and Pardon Commission of the Judiciary133.
Only a day before the spokesperson of the judiciary announced the suspension of stoning sentences, on 4 August 2008, the Supreme Court upheld a stoning sentence for Afsaneh R. in Shiraz134.
Other stoning sentences have continued to be issued and implemented in 2008 and early 2009 (see the table). As it was noted earlier in the case of the moratorium on public hangings, some judges continue to ignore the moratoria issued by Ayatollah Shahroodi, head of the judiciary, because his directives do not have the force of law. The Constitution of the IRI has specified the powers of the head of judiciary and he may not prevent the implementation of a sentence.
According to new reports, stoning sentences were carried out in Mashhad on 25 December 2008. Two men by the names of Mahmood M. Gh (a citizen of Afghanistan; charge unknown), Manouchehr Kh (charges: rape and incest) and a third man (charge: unknown) were stoned in the Behesht-e Reza Cemetery of Mashhad. The first man managed to escape the stoning pit135. Another report indicated that a 30-year-old man had been stoned to death in Rasht prison on 5 March 2009136.
Pending stoning sentences
Following the stoning in Mashhad in May 2006, human rights lawyers and journalists, some of whom later set up the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign137, documented 11 cases of people facing the stoning sentence138. They included nine woman namely Iran Eskandari, Khayrieh Valania, Fatemeh, Parisa Akbari, Kobra Najjar, Shamameh (known as Malek) Qorbani, Ashraf Kalhor, Hajieh Esmaiylvand, Soghra Molaei, and two men named Abdollah Farivar-Moghaddam and Najaf Akbari. More cases were discovered as a result of further research including an unnamed Afghan man in Mashhad, Ja’afar Kiani and his partner Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, as well as a couple of women named Layla Qomi and Hajar139. Another report on the Maydaan website of the Campaign mentioned two more names: A’zam Khanjari and Zahra Rezaei140.
Other stoning sentences that were issued later included141:
Of all the documented stoning sentences, seven had been reprieved as of summer 2008 as a result of efforts by human rights defenders and international pressure. These were: Hajieh Esmaiylvand, A’zam Khanjari, Zahra Rezaei, Parisa Akbari and her husband Najaf Akbari, Mokarrameh Ebrahimi and Soghra Molaei.
Alternative methods of execution
Human rights defenders have been concerned that the judiciary continues to employ methods other than stoning as punishment for defendants. If this concern turns out to be justified, that would still mean the imposition of the death sentence, albeit by arguably less painful methods of execution, for consensual sex between adults, in violation of international human rights standards (see International legal framework).
A letter written in June 2007 by five lawyers representing seven women facing the stoning sentence pointed out that a 32-year-old mother of two named Massumeh, who had previously been sentenced to stoning, had reportedly, as substitute, been hanged in November 2006145. Another report on the Maydaan website on 31 December 2006 indicated that a man named Rassul was due to be hanged in Evin prison instead of being stoned146. Finally, Abdollah Farivar-Moghaddam, who had previously been sentenced to stoning, was executed in the northern city of Sari on 19 February 2009.
Bill for amendment of IPC does not abolish stoning
The new draft Bill for amendment of the Islamic Penal Code does not appear to promise much fundamental change to the applicable IPC. If anything, the punishments will be more subtly applied. The bill still deems fornication to be a crime the punishment for which may not be forgiven by private complainants, because it ‘has a public aspect and is a right of the Allah’ (Article 121-3, paragraph 1). Article 213-2 refers to stoning twice and Article 313-1 once. Article 213-2 stipulates that “stoning will be cancelled if the confessor withdraws his/ her confession … except if the judge has clear or cognitive knowledge with regard to it.” This provision evidently gives much more power to the judges than the applicable IPC that has not even mentioned judge’s knowledge.
Article 221-5 of the bill prescribes killing147 for incest, adultery with stepmother, non-Moslem men who commit adultery with Moslem women, and rape and it specifically and expressly prescribes stoning for adultery (paragraph e). The only provision that has been alleged to indicate the revocation of the stoning punishment is contained in Note 4 of the same Article: “In the event that the implementation of stoning could lead to corruption and disgrace to the system, at the proposal of the prosecutor in charge of implementation of the sentence and upon ratification of the head of the judiciary, stoning shall be substituted with killing, if the cause for punishment has been proved by shari’a-sanctioned testimony148. Otherwise it shall be substituted with one hundred lashes.” This Article makes it crystal clear that stoning will be avoided only if it causes disgrace to the Islamic Republic system and even then it would be replaced with another method of execution. Hence, fornicators and adulterers may be hanged or otherwise executed rather than stoned.
Articles 221-16 and 221-17 describe how stoning should be imposed, and include the same provisions for burial and the size of stones as in the current Islamic Penal Code.
Discrimination against women
Though men are occasionally sentenced to stoning, women are the main victims of the stoning sentence. A closer examination of the cases of women sentenced to stoning (see Table below) shows that some of them were accused of both adultery and involvement in the killing of their husband. Domestic violence, poverty, addiction, and illiteracy are some of the recurrent aspects in their lives. At least three of those women had been forced by their husbands to work as prostitutes. Some come from ethnic backgrounds. One comes from the Bakhtiari tribe, two are Turkic speakers from Iranian Azerbaijan and two are from the Kurdish areas. Hence, they were likely not to understand the significance or even the meaning of the charges levelled against them. For example, Hajiyeh Esmaiylvand, a Turkic speaker, who was acquitted and released after seven years in prison, did not even know the meaning of the word zena149 when she was charged with “zena-ye mohseneh150.” Shamameh Qorbani, a Kurdish woman, was stabbed by her husband and brothers who also killed the man they found in the house. She reportedly confessed to adultery in the belief that it would save her husband and brothers from prosecution for murder. Later she withdrew her confession saying the man had raped her. Before dismissing her lawyers under pressure from her family, she told them that if they managed to save her, she would have to kill herself, because the male members of the family would not let her live.
Table: Stoning sentences & executions, 1980 – 2009 (March)
Sources: Amnesty International reports 1979-2008 and its 2008 report Iran: End execution by stoning; Stop Stoning Forever Campaign; Iranian newspapers; Hands Off Cain
Note: The figures are the minimum numbers of executions by stoning as reported by the media in any given year. It is not clear whether there have been stoning sentences or execution by stoning in other years that have not been reported here.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran punish by death a very large number of offences, including offences that are not considered as “most serious” under international law – in particular political, economic, drug-related and so-called sexual offences. Current draft legislation on the parliament’s agenda would reduce the scope of capital punishment to a certain extent, but extend it to apostasy and widen its scope in the case of vaguely worded offences, e.g. “corruption on earth.”
Although Iran is a party to the ICCPR and the CRC, the provisions of those international human rights instruments relevant to the death penalty are widely disregarded. The recommendations addressed to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran by the treaty bodies in charge of the examination of the respect for these conventions have been left unimplemented for years, in particular with regard to gender-neutral age of majority, end to sentencing and execution of juvenile offenders, restriction of the scope of the death penalty, and an end to public executions.
Death sentences are pronounced after unfair trials: the Judiciary is not independent from the Executive, there are numerous special courts, and attacks on and even imprisonment of lawyers involved in the defense of sensitive cases are recurrent.
Execution of juvenile offenders occur regularly, a widespread practice being to keep a minor convicted of a capital crime in prison until she or he grows older and later execute him or her. Since 1999, human rights organisations have recorded at least 42 executions of juveniles in Iran, 12 of them in 2007, eight in 2008 and one in early 2009. The true figures are possibly higher. Despite several legislative proposals to ban execution of juvenile offenders, this practice is not yet banned under domestic law.
Persons belonging to ethnic minorities in Iran (Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis) are often condemned to death and subsequently executed for offences related to the security of the state. Peaceful activists are sometimes unfairly condemned on such grounds, since the authorities do not make a difference between peaceful advocacy for the rights of the said minorities, and armed attacks by autonomists. Fair trial guarantees are violated and witnesses regularly report widespread use of torture in those cases.
Last but not least, the methods of execution may themselves amount to an inhuman and degrading treatment: stoning remains the punishment for adultery, while people condemned to death for other offences are hanged. Hanging regularly occurs in public, a practice that contravenes international human rights standards.
Civil society in Iran is largely mobilised against death by stoning and capital punishment for juvenile offenders. However, there are no publicly available statistics on the number of death sentences pronounced and executions implemented, and this prevents any informed public debate on these practices.
Recommendations to the Iranian authorities:
1. On the death penalty in particular:
2. On the administration of justice
Recommendations to the international community
Recommendations to the European Union
At least 138 juvenile offenders believed to be on death row in Iran: Compiled from information collected by Amnesty International, Emadeddin Baghi, Iran Human Rights and Stop Child Executions
As of July 7, 2008 145 juvenile offenders are facing execution worldwide: 138 in Iran, 3 in Saudi Arabia, 3 in Sudan and 1 in Yemen.
At least 2 juveniles have been executed in Iran in 2008.
SAUDI ARABIA (3):
- Rizana Nafeek (female), 17 year
- Sultan Bin Sulayman Bin Muslim al-Muwallad, 15 year
- Issa bin Muhammad ‘Umar Muhammad, 13 year
- Abdelrhman Zakaria Mohamed, 16 year
- Ahmed Abdullah Suleiman , 16 year
- Al-Tayeb Abdel Aziz, 16 year
- Hafez Ibrahim
* Ages are at the time of alleged crime.
KNOWN CHILD EXECUTIONS (2007, 2008):
- Makwan Moloudzadeh Male-17 (executed on December 5, 2007)
- Mohammad Mousavi, Male-16 (Mohammad is listed on SCE petition but he was executed on April 22, 2007)
- Saeed Kamberzai, Male-17 (executed on May 28, 2007)
- Babak Rahimi, Male-17 (executed on October 17, 2007)
- Hossein Gharabaghloo, Male-16 (executed on October 17, 2007)
- 2 Afghan Boys executed in Iran (reported by BBC and Afghanistan Independent human rights commission)
- Mohammad Reza Turk (executed on November 15, 2007)
- Amir Houshang (executed on December 7, 2007)
- Javad Shojaee (executed on February 26, 2008)
- Mohammad Hassanzadeh (executed on June 10, 2008)
SAUDI ARABIA (1)
- Dhahian Rakan al-Sibai’i Male-15 (executed on July 21, 2007)
1. In December 2007 an overwhelming majority of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) member states adopted resolution 62/149 “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty” calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions. The Islamic Republic of Iran was among the 54 states that voted against the resolution. In December 2008, the IRI was among the 46 states that voted against a similar resolution; it was passed with 106 votes in favour.
2. Other sources reported higher figures (see Table: Minimum number of executions – below).
4. Requests were sent in particular in 2002, 2007 and 2008.
8. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/dec/02/iran.roberttait; http://www.fidh.org/spip.php?article5122 (In some sources initially she was referred to as Zahra Bani-Ameri ).
11. Amnesty International Annual Reports 1982 and 1983.
12. Pasdasht-e Haghighat (guarding the truth), a book written by Messrs Abbas Salimi Namin and Massoud Rezaei, both reputedly former officials of the Ministry of Intelligence, in response to Ayatollah Montazeri’s memoires. It can be downloaded at: http://forum.persiantools.com/t91833-page8.html (see # 116 on the list).
13. Tortured Confessions: prison and public recantations in modern Iran, Chapter 5, Mass Executions of 1988, P 209, University of California Press, 1999 (For the pertaining excerpts see: http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=_mnrYNIVfCgC&dq=Iranian+p risons+Tortured+Confessions&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=np_Yb-Y_yd&sig=kc8XQqgN6IqEhcVAbC0ndQrKdSI&sa= X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result#PPA209,M1).
14. See footnote 41 and Armed and political offences section.
17. Many Iranian sources have confused Morteza Eshraqi with Ayatollah Khomeini’s son-in-law, the late Ayatollah Shahabeddin Eshraqi, who died in July 1981.
18. Interior minister in the incumbent government of Mr. Ahmadinejad until May 2008.
19. Monafeqin means ‘hypocrites’ which is an epithet used by the IRI for the PMOI.
20. AI Country Report 1980.
21. AI Report 1982 noted that in December 1981 Amnesty International knew of more than 3,800 executions since February 1979.
22. Amnesty International Report 1983 noted the total number of executions since the revolution through the end of 1982 as 4,605.
23. Amnesty International Report 1989 initially mentioned 1,200 executions. Then the AI 1990 Report raised the estimate for 1988 to 2,000. However, AI’s public statement in 2008 on the “20th anniversary of prison massacres” referred to between 4,500-5,000 executions in 1988.
24. Human Rights Watch.
25. FIDH quoting opposition groups.
26. World Coalition against the Death Penalty.
27. Qanun-e Mojazat-e Eslami. All the references to and translations from the IPC in this report relate to the original Persian text that includes amendments made in May 1998 and January 2002 (Deedar Publishing House, Tehran, 2002). For an English translation of Articles 1-497, see http://www.iran-law.com/IMG/pdf/Iran_Criminal_Code_in_English.pdf. For another excerpted translation, see http://www.iranhrdc.org/httpdocs/english/pdfs/Codes/ThePenalCode.pdf. Unfortunately, neither is completely free from typos or other mistakes.
28. Also spelled hodud or hudud, plural for hadd.
29. qesas is retributory or retaliatory punishment and is applied to a series of various offences. Articles 204 -268 of the IPC deal with retribution for murder.
30. Plural for ta’zir.
31. In the case of murder, it is qesas-e nafs, i.e. retribution for life. Qesas is meted out in a wide range of cases and it is extensively detailed in the IPC. In November 2008, at the request of the victim, a court sentenced a man to be blinded by means of acid, because he had thrown acid on and blinded a woman who had refused to marry him (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/ iran/2008/11/081127_si-acidattack-blind.shtml). In another case in February 2008, the forensic medicine experts had refused to enforce an “eye for eye” retribution sentence on a man (http://www.roozonline.com/archives/2008/02/post_6244.php).
32. Under the Constitution, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic is the Vali Faqih, literally the ‘Canonist Guardian’, who by definition must be a theological jurisprudent. The Islamic Republic has had two supreme leaders, its founder Ayatollah Khomeini and the incumbent leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
34. The words used in Article 90 are ‘koshteh meeshavad’ which may be translated as’shall be killed’. Subsequent articles have used the word ‘qatl’ [killing], and not ‘edaam’, which is translated as execution.
35. Zena-ye mohseneh.
36. This contradictory definition is provided in the IPC for ‘lavat’. Nevertheless, a draft bill to amend the IPC (see Bill for amendment of IPC below) has defined ‘lavat’ only as sexual conduct between men involving penetration beyond the tip of the glans, and distinguished it from ‘tafkhiz’ (see the next footnote).
37. ‘ tafkhiz’ is defined in the Bill for Amendment of the IPC as ‘rubbing the penis between the legs of a male person even if the latter is dead,’ and that includes ‘penetration prior to the tip of the glans.’
38. qazf means accusing someone of fornication or being the passive partner in sodomy.
39. This punishment is based on Verse 4 of the Al-Noor (The Light) Chapter of the Quran. Although there is no mention of execution or the death penalty in that verse, there seems to be a consensus among leading Shiite canonists, past and present, on the issue.
40. See the next footnote.
41. Both are Arabic terms. Moharebeh is the action of a mohareb (a warrior); efsad-e fel-arz (corruption on earth) is the action of a mofsed-e fel-arz (‘corrupt on earth’). By implication, a mohareb is a ‘mohareb baa Khoda or a theomachist, a ‘warrior against God’. A large number of members of the opposition groups were in various years, in particular in 1981 and 1988, executed for ‘waging war against God’. Ayatollah Khalkhali defined ‘corrupt on earth’ as: “one who endeavours to promote and expand corruption on earth. Corruption is something that causes degeneration and destruction and deviation of the society from its natural course.” (Mémoires Sayeh publishing house, 2000). Ayatollah Khalkhali was a religious judge, appointed by Ayatollah Khomeini, who sentenced hundreds of people to death in the summary group trials in 1979-80 and the early 1980s. Also see the section on Kurds.
42. The other three punishments are: ‘hanging from gallows’, ‘first amputation of the right hand and then of the left foot’ and ‘banishment.’ Giving details, Article 195 stipulates that ‘in crucifixion, the convict should not be tied in a way that would lead to his death’ and ‘not be tied to the cross longer than three days.’ The term crucifixion is a reference to the punishment of ‘hanging from gallows’ as in Article 190. Furthermore, according to a frequently invoked 1993 fatwa of the incumbent Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, judges may and do sentence moharebs to serve their banishment sentence in prisons. It is to be noted that those sentences are issued by the Islamic Revolutionary Courts. However, many veteran judges of general courts deem such sentences to be unlawful, because that fatwa has not been made into law. This is a problem that regularly arises, as may be noted in other cases; for example the disregard of some judges for the moratoria issued by the head of the judiciary on stoning sentences or hanging in public.
43. A source of emulation (marja-e taqlid) is usually a grand ayatollah who has written, among other religious books, a comprehensive catechism (‘resale-ye amaliyeh’), which lay Shiite Moslems use to emulate him in questions relating to religious, personal and social conduct.
45. Article 167 of the Constitution provides: “… In the absence of [applicable laws, a judge] shall issue a judgment on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources and authentic fatwas.”
46. The ayatollah’s book, Tahrir ul-Vassileh (http://www.melliblog.blogfa.com/post-301.aspx), has formed the backbone of the penal codes since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 as well as the new draft bill intended to amend the applicable penal code (See also Planned legislation section below for details). The website of the theological teachers of Qom, dubbed as the religious capital of Iran, www.hawzah.net , stipulates that apostasy carries the death sentence and explains The ayatollah’s book, Tahrir ul-Vassileh (http://www.melliblog.blogfa.com/post-301.aspx), has formed the backbone of the penal codes since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 as well as the new draft bill intended to amend the applicable penal code (See also Planned legislation section below for details). The website of the theological teachers of Qom, dubbed as the religious capital of Iran, www.hawzah.net , stipulates that apostasy carries the death sentence and explains Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 death sentence on Salman Rushdie in that context (http://www.hawzah.net/Hawzah/Vijeh/vijeh.aspx?id=52197).
48. sab un-nabi.
49. qesas is retributory or retaliatory punishment and is applied to a series of various offences. Articles 204 -268 of the IPC deal with retribution for murder.
50. mahdur ud-dam, literally meaning a person whose blood may be wasted.
51. Baseej, meaning mobilisation, is the paramilitary organisation under the command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
53. Followers of Christianity, Judaism or Zoroastrianism (Tahrir ul-Vassileh, Vol. IV, bilingual text, P 249).
54. Daily Etemad of 17 February 2008 reported the girl’s name as Sommayeh.
55. Qanun-e mojazat-e ekhlalgaran-e dar nezam-e eqtessadi-ye keshvar.
56. See footnote 41.
57. The applicable IPC was initially approved by the Judicial and Legal Affairs Committee of the majlis in 1991 on the basis of Article 85 of the Constitution, under which the House may assign the task of legislation to one of its committees. In that case, the law in question will be in force on a trial basis for a specific period of time. In 1991, the IPC came in force for five years and then in early 1997 its trial period was extended for another 10 years. Since 2006 the trial period has been extended three times, one year at a time.
58. For the full text in Persian, see http://www.dadkhahi.net/law/Ghavanin/Ghavanin_Jazaee/layehe_gh_mojazat_eslami.htm
59. The Council is made up of 12 members. Six are Islamic canonists, who are appointed by the Supreme Leader and the other six are jurists, elected by the majlis from among those nominated by the head of the judiciary. Only the first six have jurisdiction to comment on compatibility of legislations with Islamic shari’a and ratify or return them to the House for amendment. The full Council checks the compatibility of legislations with the Constitution.
60. For an English translation of this section see http://rezaei.typepad.com/hassan_rezaei/2008/02/index.html
61. mortad-e fetri.
62. mortad-e melli.
63. Tahrir ul-Vassileh, by Ayatollah Khomeini, original Arabic text, volume 2, page 494. The Persian translation of the related section is available on page 243 of volume 4 of the bilingual text (http://www.melliblog.blogfa.com/post-301.aspx). For an actual court verdict based on Ayatollah Khomeini’s apostasy fatwa, see the 1994 verdict issued in Sari, Mazandaran, at: (http://www.hoghooghdanan.com/lawblog/article12.html).
64. “Tarh-e tashdeed-e mojazat-e ekhlal dar amniyat-e ravani-ye jame’e”.
65. Elhaad; The IPC and the draft bill have not mentioned atheism.
67. CCPR/C/79/Add.25, 3 August 1993, Para 8.
68. Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/15/Add.254, 31 March 2005, paras 6 and 7.
69. This interpretation has been adopted by Mr. Mostafaei, a human rights lawyer, who represents nearly two dozen death-row juveniles: http://mostafaei.blogfa.com/post-15.aspx
70. Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/15/Add.254, 31 March 2005, para 30.
71. CRC/C/15/Add.123, 28 June 2000, para. 30.
72. Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/15/Add.254, 31 March 2005.
73. UN Human Rights Committee General Comment 6 on the right to life (art. 6), 30/04/1982, paragraph 6.
74. General Comment on art. 6 of ICCPR, para 7.
75. Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Sudan under Article 40 of the Covenant, UN document No. CCPR/C/79/Add.85, 19 November 1997, paragraph 8,http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/0/bc310a747155dff88025655300537 fae?Opendocument (24 March 2005).
76. U.N. Economic and Social Council, Resolution 1984/50, “Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty”, ECOSOC/Res/1984/50, 25 May 1984, http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_comp41.htm
77. Resolutions 1999/61, 2000/65, 2001/68, 2002/77, 2003/67, 2004/67 and 2005/59.
78. E/CN.4/2005/7, para. 63.
79. Para. 1d of A/RES/58/195 (December 2003), Para. 3j of A/RES/59/205 (December 2004), Para. 2d of A/RES/60/171 (December 2005), Para. 2d of A/RES/61/176 (December 2006), Para. 1c, 1d and 3a, b, c and d of A/RES/62/168 (December 2007), and resolution as voted in the third committee of the UNGA in November 2008, para. 2a, b, and c, and para. 3a, b, c and d of A/C.3/63/L.40.
80. See UNGA Resolution 62/168 and 63/191.
81. The same Article refers to all “human, political, economic, social and cultural rights” but unfortunately qualifies it with “in compliance with the Islamic tenets.”
82. Report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, A/63/459, 1 October 2008, paras. 9 and 10, accessed at: http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N08/530/75/PDF/N0853075.pdf?OpenElement.
83. E/CN.4/2004/3/Add.2, 27 June 2003, paras 51 and 56, and recommendation 1, accessed at http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/ UNDOC/GEN/G03/147/77/PDF/G0314777.pdf?OpenElement
84. According to a 19 October 2001 amendment to the Law for Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts, the Discernment Branches of the Supreme Court were assigned to examine appeals against finalised sentences to see if they are in contravention of law or shari’a-sanctioned evidence. Each branch consisted of five judges of the Supreme Court, who were appointed by the head of the judiciary. Their decisions were final and not subject to appeal, unless the head of the judiciary found those decisions in contravention of shari’a-sanctioned evidence. Those branches were also empowered to prescribe retrial. Those branches were dissolved under a February 2007 amendment to the law.
85. Occasionally in some qesas cases, a death-row prisoner is made to wait several years for the children of the victim to reach majority in order to decide his/her fate, i.e. to demand retribution or to accept financial compensation.
86. See annual Reports of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of FIDH and OMCT.
87. As of July 2008 there were 3 juvenile on death row in Saudi Arabia, 3 in Sudan and 1 in Yemen. Other than Iran, only Saudi Arabia executed 1 juvenile in 2007. In 2008, Iran has been the only country to execute juveniles (see Juvenile offenders log in annex).
88. The New York Times interview, 26 September 2008.
89. There are 354 days in a lunar year, which would make boys just over 14.5 solar years old and girls 8.7 solar years old.
90. Ayatollah Shahroodi had issued a similar circular letter in 2003.
91. Hands Off Cain Report 2004.
92. The judge, who sentenced her to death and later personally put the noose around her neck, claimed that she was 22 years old. The case received widespread coverage including in a BBC documentary in which her relatives produce both her birth and death certificates: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTv6ZDRyqe8
93. Some reports have spelled the name as Segound.
94. As of July 2008 there were 3 juvenile on death row in Saudi Arabia, 3 in Sudan and 1 in Yemen. Other than Iran, only Saudi Arabia executed 1 juvenile in 2007. In 2008, Iran has been the only country to execute juveniles (see Juvenile offenders log in annex).
96. As of July 2008 there were 3 juvenile on death row in Saudi Arabia, 3 in Sudan and 1 in Yemen. Other than Iran, only Saudi Arabia executed 1 juvenile in 2007. In 2008, Iran has been the only country to execute juveniles (see Juvenile offenders log in annex).
97. See http://www.fidh.org/spip.php?article5701.
98. A comparison of the said document with the cases recorded in the table above shows that some of them had been executed before the compilation of the said document; some others have been executed afterwards.
99. It is to be noted that according to World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, Sunnis constitute 10% of the population in Iran, Jews 0.04% (25,000), Christians 200,000-250,000, Zoroastrians 0.02% (10,000), Baha’is 0.5% (300,000) (see: http:// www.minorityrights.org/5092/iran/iran-overview.html). Other sources have mentioned the number of Zoroastrians up to 32,000, Jews over 30,000, Christians more than 300,000 and Sunnis 9% (Country profile: Iran, May 2008 – Library of Congress).
100. A blog allocated to “martyrs of Baha’is in Iran since 1979” listed 215 names (see: http://bahaimartyrs.blogspot. com/2008/07/1357.html)
101. See Apostasy under the Domestic legal framework section.
102. Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri (known as Baha’ullah to Bahai’s) was forced to leave Iran for Iraq, then under the Ottoman rule, in 1853 A.D. The Ottoman government banished him to Istanbul in 1863 and then to Acre in Palestine where he died in 1892 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bah%C3%A1%27u%27ll%C3%A1h).
103. Ethnic Christians in Iran are Armenians, Assyrians and Chaldeans. They are mostly followers of the Orthodox Church, but some are also Catholics. Non-ethnic Christians are mostly followers of Protestant and evangelical churches and many are converts from Islam.
105. A part of the population in the Khuzestan province is also Arab, but they are mostly Shiite Moslems.
108. The Iranian authorities have consistently and deliberately avoided providing exact details of ethnic population figures. A report by Amnesty International, Iran: Human rights abuses against the Kurdish minority (published 2008) said there were an estimated 12 million Kurds (15-17% of total population) living in Iran (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE13/088/2008/en/f45865e9-5e3e-11dd-a592-c739f9b70de8/mde130882008eng.html).
109. Reported in Enqelab-e Eslami newspaper, published by former President Banisadr (http://enghelabe-eslami.com/dar-inshomare/ 704_matn3.htm).
113. Amnesty International’s 2006 report, “Defending minority rights: The Ahwazi Arabs”, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/056/2006
114. Amnesty International Report 2007.
115. Amnesty International Report 2008.
116. Army of Allah.
117. Amnesty International noted in its report (see http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/104/2007/en) that the Jondollah has by its own admission “carried out gross abuses such as hostage taking, the killing of hostages and attacks against nonmilitary targets”.
119. Amnesty International annual reports.
121. See Domestic legal framework section.
122. ”Directive on Implementation regulations for Qesas, Stoning, Killing, Crucifixion, Execution & Flogging” require the presence of the following: the sentencing judge, governor or deputy governor of prison, commander or deputy commander of the local police force, a forensic medicine specialist, a cleric or religious representative (not obligatory), court secretary, survivors of the victim or their lawyer, lawyer of the condemned (not obligatory), and witnesses if required by law. For an English translation of the Rules see Appendix 3 in: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE13/001/2008/en/ec69fe85-d981-11dc-a340- 29dd7d6e4103/This+document+is+not+available+as+HTML.html
123. This is the current practice. In the 1980s, families of prisoners were not usually told about the executions and were mostly not even given their personal effects. Survivors of victims of the 1988 mass executions have never to this date been notified of the burial places of their beloved (see Massacre of 1988 above).
124. Execution Square.
125. Under the law, in most cases, testimony of two women equals that of one man.
126. Articles 68-81 of the IPC. For those and other articles of the IPC dealing with fornication, adultery and stoning as well as the Directive on Implementation Regulations for [related] Sentences including stoning, see the sources in footnotes 27 and 121 or Appendices 2 and 3 in: Amnesty International’s report in January 2008, Iran: End executions by stoning: http://www.amnesty. org/en/library/asset/MDE13/001/2008/en/ec69fe85-d981-11dc-a340-29dd7d6e4103/This+document+is+not+available+a s+HTML.html
127. It is notable that the IPC has stipulated “knowledge of the judge” specifically as one of the means to prove theft or murder, but not in the case of fornication/adultery. However, Ayatollah Khomeini has granted judges the power to use their knowledge in fornication- and adultery-related cases (Tahrir ul-Vassileh, Vol 4, P 197). The book was invoked to sentence two sisters to stoning in 2007(see the case of Kabiriniyyat sisters below).
129. For details see Domestic legal framework. There is a theoretical possibility for the stoning victim to escape under Article 103: “If the condemned… escapes the pit, s/he shall be returned for the stoning to be administered if adultery has been proved by testimony; however, s/he shall not be returned if adultery has been proved by confession.” Nevertheless, in practice, even if other important factors such as the extreme weakness resulting from injuries were to be ignored, the burial conditions alone make it almost impossible for the victims, especially for women who are buried up to their breasts, to escape. Among all the documented cases, two men were reported to escape from the stoning pit. The exact details and conditions are not known (see the cases in November 1998 and December 2008 below in the Table: Stoning sentences and executions, 1980-2009 (March).
130. Op. cit.
132. Op. cit
133. There is a central Commission at the Capital and local commissions in provinces. The central Commission consists of five judges who are appointed by head of the judiciary, its task being to examine applications for amnesty from convicts or judicial officials in favour of convicts and to make recommendations to the Supreme Leader accordingly. It has the power to recommend the commuting of sentences or amnesty for convicts. Article 22 of the commission’s rules of procedure provides for 13 specific occasions each year, when the eligible persons may be pardoned and released. Some of them are religious occasions, e.g. birthday of Prophet Mohammad and birthdays of some Shia imams. Some others are national occasions, e.g. the Iranian New Year (Noruz) at the start of the spring. One occasion (birthday of the prophet’s daughter) is specifically designated for granting amnesty to female convicts. However, under the same Article, convicts may be pardoned on “other occasions that the Supreme Leader approves of.” Under Article 23, policies governing amnesty and pardon include: “consideration of the impact of punishment on the convict and the latter’s regret; consideration of social, political and regional necessities; consideration of the right of people and compensation for private complainants.” These provisions have regularly been used to exert pressure on certain convicts. For example, political prisoners are expected to disavow their beliefs in order to qualify for amnesty. The provisions excluding certain categories of convicts from eligibility for amnesty are perhaps just as bad. According to Article 25, the following categories do not qualify for amnesty: professional drug traffickers; convicts facing punishment according to rights of people such as the qesas cases; armed robbery; rape; espionage, moharebeh, arms smuggling; embezzlement, bribery and kidnapping; convicts sentenced to death and stoning whose crime has been proved by testimony of witnesses.
135. http://www.roozonline.com/archives/2008/12/post_10840.php. His fate is unclear. Under the IPC, if his sentence was issued on the basis of his own confession, the sentence would be repealed (Article 103).
139. For details of most of those cases see Amnesty International’s report January 2008, Iran: End executions by stoning: http:// www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE13/001/2008/en/ec69fe85-d981-11dc-a340-29dd7d6e4103/This+document+is+not +available+as+HTML.html
142. The details resemble those of Abdollah Farivar Moqaddam, whose case has been documented.
144. Op. cit.
147. See footnote 34.
148. bayyeneh shari’i.
151. The stoning most probably took place at a northern sea resort by that name near Sari, the provincial capital of Mazandaran. There are however three villages by that English transliteration as in the AI report, albeit with a different Persian spelling, in Khorassan, Yazd and Eastern Azerbaijan provinces.
152. Hands off Cain 2000 report.
153. AI reported her sentencing in the year 2004.
154. According to a BBC report, two women were stoned to death in May and July (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1435760.stm).
155. Hands off Cain 2003 report.
156. The AI statement of 16 January 2009 indicated that Mohammadi and Eskandari may have been sentenced in 2005 or 2006; the sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008.
158. Interview with Mr. Ra’eesi, head of Human Rights Committee of the Fars Province Bar Association in http://www.campaignforequality.info/spip.php?article3288.