Saturday, 25 December 2010

ai: Iran executions by stoning

executions by stoning
© AP
“We have to work to eradicate stoning
wherever it happens in the world: it is a
brutal and inhuman act… through which
the authorities are attempting to control
society [and stop] people enjoying their
right to a private life.”
Shadi Sadr, Iranian lawyer, anti-stoning campaigner
and women’s rights activist
Ja’far Kiani was buried up to his waist and
stoned to death on 5 July 2007 in Iran’s
north-western province of Qazin. He had
been convicted a decade earlier of “adultery
while married” with Mokarrameh Ebrahimi,
with whom he had two children and who
was also sentenced to death by stoning. Her
life was later spared.
Stoning is mandatory under the Iranian
Penal Code for “adultery while married” for
both men and women – conduct that the
vast majority of states do not criminalize, let
alone punish with death.
Stoning is a particularly repugnant and
cruel form of execution. Iranian law
specifies that the stones must be large
enough to cause injury and eventually
death, but not so large as to kill the victim
immediately. This form of execution is
therefore deliberately designed to prolong
the suffering of victims.
The most common method of execution in
Iran is hanging, and hundreds of men and
women are put to death this way every year.
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979,
Amnesty International has documented at
least 77 stonings, but believes the true
figure may well be higher, particularly as
it was not able to record figures for all the
years between 1979 and 1984.
Those sentenced are frequently poor or
otherwise marginalized members of society.
Most of those sentenced to death by
stoning are women for the simple reason
that they are disadvantaged in the criminal
justice system, and face wide-ranging
discrimination in law, particularly in regard
to marriage and divorce. However, in recent
years more men are known to have been
stoned to death than women.
In 2002, the then Head of the Judiciary
declared a moratorium on stoning. However,
Iranian law gives judges wide discretionary
powers when deciding on sentencing, and
since 2002 at least five men and one woman
have been stoned to death. Additionally, at
least two men and one woman sentenced
to stoning have been hanged instead. In
January 2009, the Spokesperson for the
Judiciary stated that the directive to judges
on the moratorium had no legal weight and
that judges could ignore it.
In June 2009, the Legal and Judicial
Affairs Committee of Iran’s parliament
recommended the removal of a clause
permitting stoning from a new draft revision
of the Penal Code. This remains under
discussion in parliament.
A draft submitted for comment to the
Council of Guardians, which checks
legislation for conformity to the Constitution
and Islamic law, is reported to omit any
reference to the penalty of stoning.
However, either the parliament or the
Council of Guardians could reinstate the
clause on stoning. In addition, even if
the penalty is removed from law, stoning
sentences could still be imposed by judges
under legal provisions that require them to
judge cases by their knowledge of Islamic
law where no codified law exists.
Amnesty International opposes the death
penalty in all cases as a violation of the right
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
amnesty international December 2010 Index: mdE 13/095/2010
Death by stoning is the manDatory sentence for “aDultery
while marrieD” in iran. EvEn though a moratorIum on Such
ExEcutIonS waS announcEd In 2002, StonIngS contInuE.
amnESty IntErnatIonal IS workIng alongSIdE thE many IranIanS
who arE campaIgnIng to End Iran’S rESort to thIS partIcularly
abhorrEnt mEthod of ExEcutIon.
to life and the ultimate form of cruel,
inhuman and degrading punishment. A
cornerstone of its campaigning is that laws
and judicial proceedings should conform to
internationally recognized human rights
standards and that governments must abide
by their international human rights
Iran is a state party to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR). The government is therefore
legally bound to observe the provisions of
this treaty and to ensure that they are fully
reflected in the country’s laws and
practices. Death by stoning violates Articles
6 (right to life) and 7 (prohibition of torture
and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment) of the Covenant.
The Special Rapporteur on torture, the
Human Rights Committee, the Committee
against Torture and the Commission on
Human Rights have all said that stoning –
a form of corporal punishment – is contrary
to the prohibition of torture and other cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment and should not be used as a
method of execution.
In addition, international human rights
standards require that death sentences
must only be imposed after trials which
fully meet international fair trial standards.
These include the right to adequate legal
assistance at all stages of the proceedings,
the right not to be forced to testify against
oneself or to confess guilt, and the right to
appeal to a higher judicial body, as laid out
in Articles 6(2) and 14 of the ICCPR.
Amnesty International has long expressed
concern over the fairness of trials in Iran,
including the routine use of torture or other
ill-treatment to extract “confessions” and
denial of access to lawyers during pre-trial
interrogation, as well as provisions that allow
the judge in some instances to use his
subjective “knowledge” of the case as the
sole basis of conviction.
Index: mdE 13/095/2010 amnesty international December 2010
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
‘The size of the stone used in
stoning shall not be so big as
to kill the person by one or two
throws, nor so small that it
cannot be called a stone.’
article 104 of Iran’s Islamic penal code
dIScrImInatIon agaInSt womEn
‘Stoning is a method of capital punishment primarily used for crimes of
adultery and other related offences, of which women are disproportionately
found guilty, which is inconsistent with the prohibition of discrimination on
the basis of sex enshrined in all major human rights instruments.’
manfred nowak, un Special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, 15
January 2008
the punishment of death by stoning in Iran has a disproportionate impact on women. one
reason is that women are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of
articles 2, 3, 14 and 26 of the Iccpr. In court, in relation to some offences including adultery, a
man’s testimony is worth that of two women, and testimony by women alone is not accepted.
In a country where the literacy rate of women is lower than that of men, women are more
susceptible to unfair trials as they are more likely to sign false “confessions” that they have
not understood. they are generally poorer than men as their job opportunities are restricted,
which means they are less able to obtain good legal advice. women from ethnic minorities are
less likely than men in their communities to speak persian, the language of courts, so they
often do not understand what is happening to them in the legal process or even that they face
death by stoning.
discrimination against women in other aspects of their lives also leaves them more susceptible
to conviction for adultery. men are allowed four permanent wives and an unlimited number of
temporary wives, but women are only permitted one husband at a time. they also have a limited
right to divorce, unlike men who have the right to divorce at will. many women have no choice
over the man they marry and many are married at a young age.
women face strict and discriminatory controls on their behaviour, such as an officially enforced dress
code that requires them to be veiled, and limitations on their freedom of movement, which are
imposed and/or policed by the state. despite such controls and some gender segregation, when
women come into conflict with the law they are usually arrested, interrogated and judged by men who
are unlikely to be sensitive to gendered aspects of the case or who may be prejudiced against women.
finally, even the stoning procedure specified in law discriminates against women – men must
be buried in a pit up to near the waist; women up to near the chest. this has added
significance as the law also states that if a condemned person escapes from the pit, they
cannot be stoned again if their conviction was based on a confession.
conDemneD to stoning
At least 10 women and four men are
believed to be at risk of death by stoning,
although several cases are still under review
and alternative sentences may be imposed.
At least one other woman, Maryam
Ghorbanzadeh, originally sentenced to
stoning (see picture below), is facing
execution by hanging for “adultery while
The case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
has generated widespread international
attention. She was convicted in 2006 after
an unfair trial for “adultery while married”.
She was also separately convicted of
murder, later reduced to complicity in
murder for which she was sentenced to five
years’ imprisonment.
A 43-year-old mother of two from Iran’s
Azerbaijani minority, she speaks Azerbaijani
Turkic and has limited knowledge of
Persian, the language used by the courts.
She did not know that the Arabic loan word
rajm used when she was sentenced meant
stoning, and fainted with shock when fellow
inmates explained.
She was found guilty by three of the five
judges who heard her case. Although she
told the court that her “confession” had
been forced out of her and was not true, the
three judges convicted her on the basis of
“the knowledge of the judge”, a provision
in Iranian law that allows judges to decide
on subjective grounds whether or not a
defendant is guilty even if there is no clear
or conclusive evidence. In May 2007 the
Supreme Court confirmed the stoning
sentence. Later still, the Amnesty and
Clemency Commission twice rejected her
requests for clemency.
Since her case became the focus of
widespread international campaigning, the
Iranian authorities have made several
unclear and sometimes contradictory
statements relating to her legal status and
likely fate. The authorities appear to be
attempting to deflect criticism by portraying
her as a dangerous criminal who deserves
to be executed. She remains on death row
in Tabriz’ Central Prison and has been
denied visits by her children and lawyer
since August 2010.
Another woman from Iran’s Azerbaijani
minority, 19-year-old Azar Bagheri, was
sentenced to stoning. Married at 14, she
was no more than 15 when arrested. An
appeal court subsequently changed the
sentence to flogging, but her lawyer remains
concerned that stoning may be re-instated
by the Supreme Court, which is currently
reviewing the case.
Iran Eskandari, a woman from the Bakhtiari
tribe in the south-western province of
Khuzestan, was sentenced to stoning for
adultery and five years in prison for being
an accomplice in the murder of her
husband, verdicts upheld by the Supreme
Court in April 2006. According to reports,
she was talking to the son of a neighbour in
her courtyard when her husband attacked
her with a knife. She was left bleeding and
unconscious on the floor. While she was
unconscious, the young man allegedly killed
her husband. When police interrogated her,
she reportedly admitted to adultery with her
neighbour’s son, a “confession” she later
retracted. In June 2007 the Discernment
Branch of the Supreme Court overturned
the stoning sentence and sent her case
back for retrial before a criminal court in
Khuzestan. That court reimposed the
stoning sentence. Her case has been with
the Amnesty and Clemency Commission
since February 2009. Iran Eskandari
remains in Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz city.
Also in Khuzestan, Khayrieh Valania was
sentenced to death for being an accomplice
to murder and to execution by stoning for
adultery. According to reports, her husband
was violent towards her and she was having
an affair with a relative of her husband, who
then murdered her husband. Khayrieh
Valania confessed to adultery but denied any
involvement in the murder. Reports indicate
that the verdict has been upheld and the
case sent to the Head of the Judiciary for
permission to carry out the execution.
amnesty international December 2010 Index: mdE 13/095/2010
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who has lived
with the fear that she may be stoned to death
for more than four years.
© Private amnesty International opposes the
criminalization of consensual sexual
relations between adults and considers
those imprisoned for such acts to be
prisoners of conscience who should be
released immediately and unconditionally.
under international human rights law, nonviolent
acts such as sexual relations
between consenting adults should not be
punishable by death.
Ashraf Kalhori (or Kalhor), aged about 40
and a mother of four, was sentenced to
death by stoning for adultery and to 15
years’ imprisonment for taking part in the
murder of her husband in April 2002. Her
previous request to divorce him had been
rejected by a judge. She says that the killing
was accidental, but police accused her of
having an affair with a neighbour and
encouraging the attack. She was reported
to have “confessed” to adultery under
police interrogation, but later retracted her
statement. She was scheduled to be stoned
before the end of July 2006, but her
execution was stayed temporarily. On 23
February 2009, it was reported that the
Amnesty and Clemency Commission had
rejected her plea and that her sentence
could now be implemented at any time,
although on 2 June 2009, the
Spokesperson for the Judiciary said that
the Amnesty and Clemency Commission
had not yet reached a decision in her case.
Kobra Babaei and her husband Rahim
Mohammadi, who have a 12-year-old
daughter, were sentenced to stoning for
“adultery while married” in April 2008 by a
court in Eastern Azerbaijan Province. The
court also convicted Rahim Mohammadi
of “sodomy” for which the penalty is
execution, “the method to be specified by
the judge”. In April 2009, the Supreme
Court confirmed all the sentences.
According to their lawyer, the couple had
turned to prostitution after a prolonged
period of unemployment. In July 2009, the
Spokesperson for the Judiciary denied that
the couple’s sentences were final, but
Rahim Mohammadi was nevertheless
hanged on 5 October 2009. His lawyer, who
had not been informed of the execution
beforehand, as is required by law, said
afterwards that there was no evidence of
“sodomy” and that he believed this charge
was brought to allow the authorities to hang
Rahim Mohammadi, rather than stone him
to death.
Other women reported to have been
sentenced to stoning in Mashhad but about
whom little else is known are “M. Kh”
(convicted in 2008 and whose case is
believed to be connected to Houshang
Khodadadeh who was stoned to death in
Mashhad in December 2008), and a
woman known only by her family name of
“Hashemi-Nasab”. Their fate remains
A 21-year-old woman and a man, Abbas
Hassani, 34 and a father of two, were both
sentenced to stoning in Mashhad by Branch
5 of the Khorassan-e Razavi General Court
in late 2009. Their sentences were upheld
on appeal, and confirmed by the Supreme
Court on 14 June 2010. They were accused
of “adultery while married” after the
woman’s husband made a complaint after
he found mobile phone pictures in his wife’s
possession. Abbas Hassani is reported to
be at imminent risk of execution as his
sentence has been sent to the Office for
the Implementation of Sentences.
Index: mdE 13/095/2010 amnesty international December 2010
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
© Private
© Private
Sajjad Qaderzadeh (top), the son of Sakineh
Mohammadi Ashtiani, and (below) Javid
Houtan Kiyan, a lawyer in several cases
involving sentences of death by stoning, have
both been harassed by the authorities.
“Since I am a rural, illiterate
woman and I didn’t know
the law, I thought that if I
confessed to a relationship
with the dead man, I could
clear my brothers and husband
of intentional murder.”
Shamameh (malek) ghorbani, who was sentenced to death
by stoning for adultery, in a letter to the court
amnesty international December 2010 Index: mdE 13/095/2010
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
© N. Azimi
Above: Maryam Ghorbanzadeh, aged 25,
was tried in East Azerbaijan province in
September 2009 for “adultery while married”.
In August 2010, at the height of the
international protests about the stoning
sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani,
Branch 12 of the provincial General Court
sentenced her to stoning but in the same
verdict changed the sentence to death by
hanging based on “the general policy of the
Judiciary and directives to change [stoning]
rulings… to execution by other methods”.
Her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kiyan, submitted a
request for a judicial review, but meanwhile it
is feared that Maryam Ghorbanzadeh could be
executed at any moment.
Left: An Amnesty International protest in
Brussels, Belgium, September 2010, on behalf
of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who faces
death by stoning in Iran.
© Private
Another woman and man – Sarieh Ebadi
and Vali or Bu-Ali Janfeshan – had stoning
sentences against them upheld in August
2010, according to reports. It appears that
at no stage of the legal process were they
allowed lawyers of their choice. They are
said to have been held in Oroumieh
Central Prison, West Azerbaijan province,
since 2008.
Among the men sentenced to stoning is
Mohammad Ali Navid Khomami.
According to a 7 April 2009 report in the
Iranian newspaper Ham Mihan, he was
convicted of “adultery while married” in the
city of Rasht, Gilan province in northern
Iran. No further details are available. Fears
for his life increased after the Spokesperson
for the Judiciary confirmed on 5 May 2009
that another man had recently been stoned
to death in Rasht. This was believed to be
30-year-old Vali Azad from Parsabad,
executed in secret in Lakan Prison on
5 March 2009.
According to an August 2009 report in the
Iranian newspaper Sarmayeh, Naghi
Ahmadi was sentenced to stoning in Sari,
Mazandaran, also northern Iran, in June
2008. His lawyer said that he and a woman
were sentenced after they confessed to
“adultery while married” after Naghi
Ahmadi had gone to the woman’s house
one night when her husband was away.
The woman was apparently not sentenced
to stoning. The reason for this may relate to
Article 86 of the Penal Code, which states
that if “adultery” occurs when a spouse is
away due to “travel, imprisonment or other
extraneous circumstances” the person will
not be stoned to death.
Requests by Amnesty International to the
Iranian authorities for further details about
these and other cases have not received
campaign against stoning
The campaign against stoning has been
spearheaded from inside Iran by extremely
brave activists. The campaign began on
1 October 2006, when a group of Iranian
human rights defenders, lawyers and
journalists, led by lawyer Shadi Sadr and
journalists Mahboubeh Abbasgholidzadeh
and Asieh Amini, along with other activists
outside Iran, such as Soheila Vahdati, all
horrified at the resumption of stoning in
May that year, launched the Stop Stoning
Forever campaign to abolish stoning in law
and practice. Their courageous efforts have
been supported by international human
rights organizations, including Amnesty
International, and many individuals around
the world.
Since then, at least 13 women and two men
have been saved from stoning. The include
Hajieh Esmailvand, Soghra Mola’i, Fatemeh
A., Shamameh (Malek) Ghorbani,
Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, sisters Zohreh and
Azar Kabiri-niat, a woman known only as
“Hajar”, Kobra Najjar, Leyla Ghomi, Zahra
Rezaei, Gilan Mohammadi and Gholamali
Eskandari who were sentenced in the same
case, and a couple, Parisa A. and her
husband Najaf. Others have been granted
stays of execution, and some cases are
being reviewed or retried.
In the case of Shamameh (Malek) Ghorbani,
an Iranian Kurd condemned to stoning for
adultery in June 2006, her sentence was
overturned after retrial and she was instead
Index: mdE 13/095/2010 amnesty international December 2010
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
© Jorn van Eck / Amnesty © Iran Emrooz International
Top to bottom: Shadi Sadr, a lawyer and
journalist; Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh,
a filmmaker; and Asieh Amini, a journalist.
All three have played a prominent role in the
End Stoning Campaign and as a result of
their human rights activities have been forced
to flee Iran because of threats or persecution
and now live in exile.
amnesty international is a global movement of 2.8 million supporters,
members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who
campaign to end grave abuses of human rights.
our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the
universal declaration of human rights and other international human
rights standards.
we are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest
or religion and are funded mainly by our membership and public donations.
sentenced to 100 lashes. Her brothers and
husband had allegedly murdered a man they
found in her house, and nearly killed her by
stabbing. The Supreme Court rejected the
stoning sentence in November 2006 and
ordered a retrial, citing incomplete
investigations. Shamameh Ghorbani had
apparently confessed to adultery, believing
that this would protect her brothers and
husband from prosecution for murder.
Success in preventing stonings has come
for a variety of reasons, including local and
international campaigning and the actions
of lawyers. For example, lawyers have told
Amnesty International that using Islamic
arguments to challenge the legitimacy of
convictions resulting from the “knowledge
of the judge” have been effective in some
cases, as well as obtaining fatwas (religious
rulings) from senior Muslim clerics that
stoning sentences should not be passed.
However, the campaign has faced
repression in Iran and its supporters have
been intimidated and harassed. Some,
including Asieh Amini, Mahboubeh
Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr, have
been forced to leave the country for their
own safety and now live in exile.
Many lawyers who have represented people
in stoning cases have reported being
threatened and harassed to discourage them
from publicizing the cases. Mohammad
Mostafaei, one of the lawyers linked to the
case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, had
to flee Iran for his safety in July 2010 after
his wife and another relative were detained to
put pressure on him to present himself to the
authorities for questioning. Another lawyer in
the case, Javid Houtan Kiyan, was stopped
by security officials at Tabriz airport in late
August and forcibly taken to his office, where
they removed files. Ten days earlier, security
forces had raided his house in Tabriz and
taken away property, including his laptop
that held information about several stoning
cases. In October 2010, he was arrested
along with Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s
son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh (pictured), as they
were giving an interview to two German
journalists. The journalists, who had not
entered the country on journalists’ visas,
were also arrested. Amnesty International
fears that these arrests may be intended to
limit the flow of information to the outside
world about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s
case. In particular, the arrest of her lawyer
leaves her defenceless and at the mercy of
an arbitrary justice system.
Amnesty International is calling on the
Iranian authorities to:
n Reaffirm and fully respect the
moratorium on executions by stoning,
including by ensuring that all individuals
sentenced to stoning will not face execution
for “adultery while married” by other means.
n Enact legislation that bans stoning as a
legal punishment and ensure the draft Penal
Code does not permit the use of any form of
the death penalty or flogging for those
convicted of “adultery” or other crimes.
n Release anyone held solely on the
grounds of consensual sexual relations;
Amnesty International considers such people
to be prisoners of conscience.
n Decriminalize consensual sexual
relations between adults.
n Allow lawyers defending stoning cases to
carry out their work without fear of
n Review all legislation in Iran under
which a convicted person may be killed by
the state, with the immediate aim of
progressively restricting the scope of the
death penalty, and with a view to the
eventual abolition of the death penalty.
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
“The vast majority of the Iranian people are vehemently opposed
to stoning. There is no history of stoning ever taking place in
Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and most Iranians find
the practice revolting. While many Iranians believe that adultery
is morally wrong… they do not believe that it should be
considered a ‘crime against the state’… In Iran, adultery carries
a harsher punishment than murder, and this offends the
sensibilities of [many] Iranians.”
the global campaign to Stop killing and Stoning women, July 2010
Index: mdE 13/095/2010
december 2010
amnesty International
International Secretariat
peter benenson house
1 Easton Street
london wc1x 0dw
united kingdom

No comments: