The penal code of the Islamic Republic of Iran calls for death
penalty for adultery and homosexuality. The Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights are two of the most respected Human Rights documents that
are calling for the Rights of humans to life. They also prescribe
that there should not be any inhuman, cruel and degrading punishment
or torture. Iran is a state signatory to both bills. Cultural
relativism however questions the applicability of Human Rights
as stipulated by UDHR to non-western countries. In this paper
sexual preference, as a basic and private right of human beings,
will be looked into and the legal consequences of displaying behavior,
deemed not normal per Islamic Republic's code of conduct, will
The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) pronounces itself as the only
and the most dedicated government to the rule of god. This paper
will hesitate to get involved in the religious context of this
claim and will try to discuss the issue from a secular mind set.
The author believes that religion is a personal attribute and
does not need to be discussed at any place beyond the personal
relationships with the creator, if there is such a believe.
I feel that I have to make clear from the beginning that the argument
of righteousness or faultiness of homosexuality or adultery is
not the focus of this paper. And I do not have any desire to
challenge the cultural background and/or morality of the society
in this regard. I should however express my belief that the possibility
of having a Civil Society without freedom to choose one's personal
style of living even within the boundary of one's own household,
is an absurd assumption. In different parts of this paper I will
also present some examples of homosexuality in Iran, just to show
the precedents in Iranian literature and history. But the main
argument of the paper would be to challenge the Iranian penal
code with respect to dis-proportionality of punishment for these
The system that came after the dictatorship of the Shah (Feb.
1979) brought indeed more restrictions to people's social life
than her predecessor. The Pahlavi dynasty had ruled in a mode
of admiration of the West and had tried to bring Western life
style as a sign of modernization and democracy. Years before Reza
Shah's coming to power the winds of change and modernization were
blowing from the West. However, the Pahlavis were the first
to try to forcefully change the traditional Iranian life style,
by setting up dress codes for women and men. This happened at
the same time that Kamalism was exercising a similar concept in
Turkey. Reza Shah proposed hats for women instead of chador while
forcing men to wear a special kind of hat named "Pahlavi
hat". It is obvious that even without any external force,
evolution of traditional life style into modernism would have
been inevitable. And of course, it would have been more stable
if it had come to be established in a manner from the bottom up.
But the speed of modernization on the surface, without change
in the social context and structure of the society, created an
internal resistance that eventually discredited anything that
was not in accordance with the traditional norms and theocratic
texture of the society.
The Islamic Republic has followed the same path only in the opposite
direction, by interfering with personal life styles and preferences.
It is now clear that trying to re-establish the traditions back
again has not been successful. After 18 years of forceful changes
in every aspect of Iranians personal life, the IRI has not yet
been happy with how people think, drink, eat, love, dress, walk,
bike, listen, smell, look, etc.
In many countries East or West, there are complaints of ill-treatment
of gays, either by government agents, private citizens or religious
pressure groups. The level of these reactions to gay and lesbian
movements, however is quite differential. Reports have been received
from the United Kingdom as well as from many states in the United
States and Australia. In many states of the US sodomy is an illegal
act, including my home state of Oregon. But in almost every undemocratic
society there is evidence that gays were persecuted, tormented,
tortured and murdered. In many countries where there is no official
death penalty for homosexuality, extra-judicial executions are
being carried out. In Colombia, victims have been largely gunned
down in streets at night or seized and driven away, in actions
named "Social Cleansing". An appeal form an Argentinean
Gay Rights Organization said the following about the situation
of gays in Chile after the coup of 1973: "A group of soldiers
raped, tortured and castrated a well known Uruguayan homosexual
with the nick name Lola Punales in Santiago. Many other homosexuals
met a similar faith: such incidents are a daily occurrence in
Chile. They leave the dead bodies in the street for days to intimidate
the population and to establish an example." In Brazil,
Greece and Mexico also, death squads are "cleaning"
the society of undesired members.
In Turkey, although homosexuality is not illegal, gay rights activists
have been subjected to harassment and torture. In rest of the
Islamic world however the story is totally different. In countries
where hadd punishments are in effect, homosexuality and adultery
are often punishable by death.. Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan,
Sudan, Afghanistan, Republic of Yemen and Oman are known to practice
the law and to punish their citizens with hadd, although sodomy
or homosexuality might not be mentioned in their penal code.
It can be seen that the most important function of the persecution
and punishment of gays is to establish examples. With these examples
it is demonstrated what happens to somebody who stands up for
his/her personal interests, needs and preferences when it is against
or not the same as society's code of conduct. This treatment is
more effective when the behavior is for the seemingly most private
human needs. And it is more easy to persecute certain people when
there is nobody to defend them. The punishment for living "private"
needs is meant to teach that it is dangerous, even life threatening,
to stand up for one's interests. What is true for intimate sexual
needs in the bedroom, may be even more true for pursuing interests
in society as a whole. The practiced willingness to restrict
oneself begins with giving up any sensual sexuality and moves
further to not eating special foods and finally to giving up resistance
against the restriction of democratic rights. As was pointed
out in a statement about homosexuality issued by the National
Social Democratic Workers Party of Germany (NAZI) in 1928: "Common
good before individual rights! It is not necessary that you and
I live but it is necessary that the German nation lives!"
Those who did not follow this principle and who acted in behalf
of their "individual rights", meaning those who lived
out their desires, caused harm to the "German nation."
Statement continued by saying that "Manhood is maintained
only if discipline is exercised, especially in matters of love.
Lack of discipline is free love without constraint. Therefore
we reject it as we reject everything that harms the nation. Who
ever thinks about love between men and men and women and women,
is our enemy. We reject everything that makes our nation unmanly
and allows it to become a playball in the hands of our enemies,
because we know that living is fighting and that it is madness
to think that humans will someday join arms in brotherly love.
Natural history teaches us otherwise."
Some may argue that we do not have this kinds of problem or "we have more important things to deal with" or as a religious man told me "we do not have Iranian gays." On the contrary, there are many references in Iranian literature to adultery and homosexuality to support the belief that these acts if not accepted thoroughly, still had precedents in Iranian society. Although a distinction should be made between paedophile and homosexual, Saadi's, Iraj Mirza's, and even Farid-ed-din Attar Nishaburi's poetry and writings are examples of the existence of same sex sexual relations in the past. There are also is much evidence of same sex sexual affairs in the religious schools and military compounds. In the last decade before the revolution, there were some signs of public acts of homosexuality, including at least one gay marriage reported by media at the time. There also was evidence of homosexual acts among females, especially in high schools. So it would be safe to assume that there would have been the same level of exposition of homosexuality in Iran as it is now in other secular countries like Turkey, if there would not have been a restrictive religious regime in power. Even with all the fear imposed on homosexuals in Iran, there are reports that public gatherings of homosexuals have triggered responses of officials in October of 1992 following a report by SalaAm, the daily newspaper in Tehran. In a case reported by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), two teenage boys had appeared in a civil court chamber in Tehran requesting permission to marry each other. It has also happened that in some political cases courts have accused the subject with having homosexual relation. Namely, Mr. Saidi Sirjani an Iranian satirist and writer, and Dr. Ali Mozaffarian a Surgeon were among those who were accused of homosexuality. There are quite a lot of asylum cases that have been recorded by the IGLHRC in their country packet for Iran, which among other evidence discussed so far, proves that homosexuality is not indeed a rare and surprising event in Iran. Therefore it seems reasonable to assume that the punishments for adultery and homosexuality established by the penal code of Islamic Republic, can be part of attempts to create a standard behavior by punishing those who are not following the common norms.
The Islamic Republic of Iran came to power with the promise of
being an Islamic government with a democratic structure, meaning
the will of the people would be honored if in accordance with
the rules of religion. Rulers of the system including Ayatollah
Khomeini never tried to separate religion from the state. From
the very first nights of the revolution, Revolutionary Courts
practiced the Islamic penal code under the judgment of ecclesiastical
judges (ghazi share) and sentenced most of the accused as corrupt
on earth "mofsid fil arz" and/or enemy of god (mohareb
ba khoda) to death by firing squads. Amnesty International reports
at least 69 executions in these trials from February to March
of 1979 (when Ayatollah Khomeini temporarily suspended the revolutionary
courts), from which 19 were for crimes related to Islamic sexual
codes. Although trials based on Islamic penal codes were a common
practice during this period of time, the official application
of Islamic Laws in the penal code took a while.
The monarchist constitution, which was enforced since the Iranian
Constitutional Revolution of 1906, had confirmed that the royal
government was a gift of God to the people through the Shah.
The second article of the same constitution had prioritized Islamic
laws over all the countries regulations and had annulled any regulations
approved by people's representatives that was in contradiction
to the Islamic laws. The law, however, was not practiced by Pahlavis
as it was written.
The article 207 of fifth section of the Iranian Penal Code approved in 1925, speaks of sodomy in the same context as rape. In part "A", sodomy as well as rape of victims of the opposite sex, is punishable with 3 to 10 years of penal prison. Seven aggravating factors will merit the maximum sentence:
1- If the victim is below 18 years of age
2- If the victim is a married woman
3- If the victim is a virgin girl
4- If the victim is mentally ill and not capable to decide
5- If sodomy took place by force
6- If the offender is a teacher or servant of the victim or works for someone who is superior to the victim
7- If the offender is a married man
If the offender has a first degree relation by marriage or third
degree sanguain relationship with the victim, life imprisonment
In part "B", the code addresses non-forceful sexual
acts force between people of different sex when the female side
is above 15 but below 18 years of age. The punishment for these
offenses is 3 to 7 years of first degree imprisonment. The same
cases as under part "A" will require the maximum punishment
of 7 years. For sexual relations with females below 15 years
of age, the punishment is 3 to 10 years of imprisonment.
Article 212 of this law specifically talks about adultery and punishes the convicted parties with 6 month to 3 years of prison. Applicable cases are as follows:
1- If a married woman has illicit sex with a man
2- If a married man has illicit sex with a woman
3- If a man has illicit sex with a married woman
4- If a married woman gets married to a man
5- If a man marries a married woman
The first three cases are civil crimes & the punishment will
depend on charges by private citizen, where the rest are criminal
charges and are in the domain of the state.
There was no reference to homosexuality in a general context in
the penal code of pre-Revolutionary Iran. These laws are still
part of the Iranian Public Penal code, although being partially
superseded by the new Islamic Penal code of 1991. As with many
other laws, this is another parallel code from the past that officially
is not being suspended yet.
The Islamic Penal Code comes in five books;
The first four books were written into law in Dec. of 1991 and
the last book was approved in June of 1996. This paper is concerned
with the second book, the "Hodud", which addresses adultery
and homosexuality in articles 63 to 134. These subjects are discussed
in three sections; zinaA "adultery", lavAt "sodomy
and homosexuality of males and mosaheqeh "homosexuality of
females". Each section has different chapters which define
the crime, its different types, provisions to prove it, and provisions
The Islamic Penal Code does specifically talk about adultery and
homosexuality as crimes and mentions them prior to others such
as theft, murder or even being enemies of God. The law differentiates
between gay and lesbian acts in separate sections and in detail
and has a whole section just for adultery as well. The punishment
has increased dramatically compared to pre-Revolutionary penal
codes. The current code also officially outlaws homosexuality
for both sexes.
Articles 63 through 81 define the crime and the provisions to prove it. It decrees that punishment is applicable to those who knowingly commit the crime and confess it four times in front of a judge, or in cases with four male witnesses or three male and two female witnesses. Adultery is punishable either by execution, death with stoning or in a few cases by flogging. Article 82 sets the execution for:
Article 83 sets the death by stoning for:
The same article says that no stoning will be applied if either
party does not have access to his/her spouse due to distance,
imprisonment etc. It also stipulates that if the adult married
female has sex with a minor male, she will be punished by flogging.
Article 88 sets 100 strikes of the lash as the punishment for
adultery if it does not qualify according to the definitions of
articles 82 or 83. Article 90 stipulates: should the adulterer
repeat the crime after being punished four times, he or she will
be executed. In the continuation of this section, one can find
some exceptions or delays in the application of the punishment
for females during pregnancy or while nursing a baby. Articles
98 through 107 explain the provisions to carry out the punishment
including who should cast the first stone. Article 103 stipulates:
The man is buried in a pit up to his waist and the woman is buried
roughly to her chest. Article 104 defines the size of stones
and stipulates: In stoning to death, the stones should not be
so large that the person dies upon being hit by one or two of
them, neither should they be so small that they cannot be called
a stone. Article 103 stipulates: Should the person in the pit
be able to escape, he or she will be brought back if the crime
was confirmed by witnesses, but if (s)he was sentenced based
on his or her own confession (s)he will not be brought back.
The second section of the Hodud book relates to sodomy and gays.
The pre-Revolutionary penal code assigned punishment only for
sodomy and up to 10 years. Articles 108 to 126 define the crime
and provisions for the punishment.
Article 110 stipulates: Punishment for sodomy (la'vaAt) is death,
the means and the provision to be determined by the judge. There
is no difference as for an active or a passive party, given that
they are mature, sane and have committed the act with free will.
Article 112 sets 74 strikes of the lash for a passive party being
a minor, while the active adult will be killed. If both parties
are minors, they both will be punished with 74 lashes. The law
then goes on to define the punishment for relations between male
homosexuals (tafkhiz) even without intercourse. Article 121 sets
the punishment of having sexual relations to 100 strikes of the
lash. Should the active party be non-Moslem he will be executed.
After repeating sexual relations without sodomy and being punished
four times, the person will receive the death penalty. Article
123 stipulates: should two unrelated men be seen naked under the
same roof with no good reason, they will each be punished with
99 strikes of the lash. Kissing in a sensual manner will be sentenced
with 60 lashes per article 124.
The third section of the book of Hodoud deals with female homosexuals.
Note that there was no mention of female homosexuality in the
pre-Revolutionary codes. Articles 127 to 134 defines lesbian
acts (mosahiqeh). Article 129 sets 100 strikes of the lash for
lesbians. Article 130 stipulates: The hadd for mosahiqeh shall
be decreed against people who have maturity, sanity, free will,
and intention. There is no difference as for being active, passive,
Moslem or non-Moslem. Article 132 stipulates: should the person
repeat mosahiqeh and be punished three times, she will be executed
at the fourth time. Article 134 stipulates: should two unrelated
women be seen naked under the same roof with no good reason, they
will each be punished with less than 100 strikes of the lash,
should they repeat it three times, they will be punished with
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General
Assembly of United Nations (UN) in 1948, has been virtually accepted
by all the UN member states. With the exception of Saudi Arabia
all of those countries which had abstained when the declaration
was approved, have formally accepted it in the Final Act of the
Conference on Security and Cooperation (Helsinki 1975).
The UDHR was adopted as a "common standard of achievement"
for all societies. throughout the years, it has taken on a legal
character and many of the General Assembly resolutions have unanimously
proclaimed "the duty" of states to "fully and faithfully
observe" its provisions. Although the prevailing interpretation
among the majority of human rights advocates is that any act inconsistent
with UDHR provisions would count as violation of international
law, doubt about the legal character of the declaration exists.
The reason behind the development of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was to be more specific
about the means of implementation, ratification and adoption into
the laws of nations, so that the covenant could become a binding
legal obligation. Consequently, even though the discussion about
the creation of the ICCPR had started before or at the same time
as the UDHR, it took the UN 18 more years to reach a sufficient
number of ratifications to put it to vote in the General Assembly,
which was done in 1966. Iran ratified the Covenant in June of
1975 and reaffirmed its support for the UN Declaration against
torture in February of 1978. The Islamic Republic of Iran has
not withdrawn the state's signature from any of these declarations
after coming to power. As a matter of fact, in December 3rd 1984,
the Iranian representative introduced a draft resolution to the
Third Committee of the UN's General Assembly, in which he reaffirmed
the importance of the UN Declaration against Torture, recognized
that new techniques and machinery for torture "are detrimental
to the fate of the individual and of the society as a whole",
and condemned all acts of torture.
Article 3 of the UDHR states that "everyone has the right
to life, liberty and security of person." And in article
5 we read "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Article 6
(1) of ICCPR stated that "Every human being has the inherent
right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one
shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life". The second part
of the same article indicated that "In countries which have
not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed
only for the most serious crimes ..." Article 6(5) of ICCPR
clearly states that "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." The Article
7 of ICCPR states again that "No one shall be subjected to
torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment..."
The emphasis given to the right to life, both in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, comes out of the fact that without
life no other rights would have any meaning. The right to life
is incontestably the most important of all human rights. As clearly
stated in both documents, the right to life was not meant to be
interpreted as universal abolition of death penalty, although
all UN resolutions have encouraged member states toward the universal
abolition of capital punishment. The ICCPR, however, clearly
stated that death penalty should be imposed only on serious crimes
and only pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent
When it comes to adultery and homosexuality, the seriousness of
the crime for the most part depends on the interpretation of the
member state Although the UN has never been able to define
the term "serious crime" in a matter that could be acceptable
to all members, at least in one document the imposition of death
penalty for non-violent or political offenses was singled out
for special condemnation. It might help if I offer a definition
for crime as well as for the violent crime. Black's law dictionary
defines the term "crime" to be a positive or negative
act in violation of penal law. It also states that "crime"
and "misdemeanor", properly speaking, are synonymous
terms; though in common usage "crime" is made to denote
offenses which are of a more serious nature. It also defines
the "crime of violence" to be an offense that has as
an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical
force against the person or property of another, or any other
offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial
risk that physical force against the person or property of another
may be used in the course of committing the offense. Crimes of
violence include voluntary manslaughter, murder, rape, mayhem,
kidnapping, robbery, burglary or housebreaking. Therefore, the
application of death penalty for sexual behaviors, deemed to be
abnormal to society's moral codes, does not fit the test of seriousness
of crime and is against the standards of international law.
Abdullah Ahmed An-naim, a Muslim scholar and Professor of Human
Rights at the College of Law, University of Saskatchewan, Canada,
writes in his essay "toward a cross cultural approach to
defining international standards of human rights" that "despite
their apparent peculiarities and diversity, human beings and societies
share certain fundamental interests, concerns, qualities, traits,
and values that can be identified and articulated as the framework
for a common 'culture' of universal human rights."
Melville J. Herskovits, one of the main proponents of cultural
relativism, distinguishes between absolutes and universals by
saying : "To say that there is no absolute criterion of value
or morals does not mean that such criteria, in differing forms,
do not comprise universals (least common denominators to be extracted
from the range of variations) in human culture. Morality is a
universal, and so is enjoyment of beauty, and some standard truth.
The many forms these concepts take are but products of the particular
historical experience of the societies that manifest them. In
each, criteria are subject to continuous questioning, continuous
change." Although morality is a universal concept in general,
the content of it differs in different societies. In other words,
what is morally accepted in the West, may be rejected in the rest
of the world.
On the other side of the argument are the kind of instruments
adopted for the punishment of criminals. Article 7 of the ICCPR
and article 5 of the UDHR, stipulate that "No one shall
be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment." The UN defines torture as "any act
in which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,
is intentionally inflicted for any purpose such as punishment,
obtaining information, intimidation, coercion or for any other
reason, when such pain or suffering is inflicted either by or
with the acquiescence of a public official." There is quite
a large amount of literature on what is inhuman and degrading
treatment as well as on what constitutes torture. An-Naim argues
however that there is an overlap between two parts of these articles,
mainly because the second part is clearly protecting every one
from being exposed to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment
and punishment" On the other hand he writes that torture
has been defined as constituting "an aggravated and deliberate
form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment"
which "does not include pain or suffering arising only from,
inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."
In other words, he concludes that "lawful sanctions can
constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
There is however evidence that this interpretation is not common.
Many arguments have been conducted on the distinction between
treatment & punishment, the definition of inhuman & cruel
acts, and the levels of suffering and pain to qualify as subject
of these rights. Although many people think that capital punishment
does not comport with human dignity and should be categorized
as inhuman punishment, article 6 of UNDHR has permitted death
penalty under certain procedures and requirements. It is however,
a common belief that if the death penalty involves torture or
a lingering death - if it should involve more than "the mere
extinguishment of life" - it is cruel and inhuman. Therefore
stoning to death does constitute a cruel, inhuman and degrading
As for the interpretation of cruel and inhuman treatment and punishment
in the Islamic world, An-Naim believes that "it should be
considered that Islamic law requires the state to fulfill its
obligation to secure social and economic justice and to ensure
decent standards of living for all its citizens before it can
enforce the Sharia's punishments." He also suggests that
"the prerequisite condition for the enforcement of the Islamic
punishments are extremely difficult to satisfy in practice and
are certainly unlikely to materialize in any Muslim country in
the foreseeable future." But, the practice of Sharia' laws
in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan and Islamic Republic of Iran
show that the so called Islamic governments have pronounced themselves
qualified to carry the law in its entirety!
Another argument being presented by Islamists is that in the Islamic
belief, life is not limited to this world and that the most important
part will come in the future life. Furthermore that there is
going to be another judgment by the Creator in the next life,
and those who have not been tried and punished in this world will
face a much harsher punishment in the after life. But there are
also accounts from prophet Mohammed saying that if there is any
doubt "shubha", the Quoranic punishment, should not
be imposed and that it is better to err on the side of refraining
from imposing the punishment than to err on the side of imposing
it in a doubtful case.
An-Naim suggests a cross cultural dialogue on the differences
in order to accomplish a universal understanding of the concepts.
This idea is also being presented by Dr. Soroush, the Iranian
scholar practically in exile. In any case, An-Nail warns "neither
internal Islamic reinterpretation, nor cross-cultural dialogue
is likely to lead to the total abolishment of these punishments
as a matter of Islamic law." He finally suggests that by
developing more strict procedural requirements or by restricting
its implementation, societies can get closer to that goal. As
an example he refers to Jewish jurisprudence, which had tempered
the practice of equally harsh punishments by a strict procedural
Article 38 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran
has prohibited torture at least in wording, although in the prosecution
process and for confession only and not as a punishment. On August
22, 1982, however, Ayatollah Khomeini declared in a lecture that
"all the laws in practice during the former regime were contrary
to Islam and should be discarded". The next day the High
Judicial Council of the Islamic Republic in a circular instructed
"all courts and prosecutors' offices of the Justice Department
to consider null and void all laws which are contradictory to
Islam." Apparently the same decree did not affect Iran's
observance of the principles of the international law because
there has not been any official withdrawal of Iran from UDHR and
Some of the terminology used in the UN Human Rights Declarations
is open to interpretations by the member states. But some do
not suffer from any uncertainty. For example according to the
ICPPR no one under the age of 18 can be executed, so there is
no room for any particular community's interpretation of maturity
age. In December 1981 reports of executions of two children in
the ages of 15 and 13 created such an uproar that the Islamic
Judge, Ayatollah Guilani, was required to declare that "under
the Islamic law, a nine year old girl is considered mature and
there is no difference between her and a 40 year old man, and
it does not prohibit us from issuing any kind of sentence"
Reality leads us to believe that for the most part the practices
of the judicial system of the Islamic Republic, including the
Revolutionary Courts, do not follow the penal code of the country
or any law whatsoever and are mostly based on the arbitrary decisions
of the judges who happen to be presiding. Article 110 of Penal
code stipulates: Punishment for sodomy (la'vaAt) is death, the
means and the provision to be determined by the judge. According
to a BBC report Ayatollah Mousavi Ardabilli, the Chief Justice
of the Islamic Republic at the time, in a lecture at the University
of Tehran said "Islam has prescribed the most severe punishments
for homosexuals.... They should seize him/her, they should keep
him standing, they should split him in two with a sword, they
should either cut his head off or split him from the head... He
will fall down, then they should bring logs, make a fire and place
the corpse on top, set fire to it and burn it, or he should be
taken to a mountain and thrown down, and then burn the remains
in fire, or they can make a hole, make a fire in the hole and
throw him alive into the fire". In other words: the penal
code has left some discretion to encourage the Judge's intuition.
There are reports of throwing the accused from tower cranes to
comply with these recommendations.
Unfortunately there are no reliable records of the number of the
executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The following graph
shows the annual distribution of 13,662 executions that have been
compiled from Amnesty International's reports on Iran. A.I. admits
that numbers provided in its annual reports might be far below
the real figures, since it only includes officially announced
executions and those which have been verified through family testimonies.
There have been many more executions which were not publicly
announced and/or have not been reported to A.I.
Although no international or independent organization has had
access to government records on capital cases, most of the recorded
executions are believed to be for political opposition and drug
related crimes. These are followed by murder and sexual crimes,
including at least 72 stonings to death during the last 17 years.
The number of stonings has risen from 2 in 1985, 8 in 1986 and
4 in 1987, to 43 in 1989 after a 5 year trial adoption of the
Islamic penal code. In one incident in April of 1989, 12 women
and 3 men were stoned to death in a football stadium in Bushehr
apparently for sexual allegations. In the same year a total of
43 people were stoned to death in different parts of the country.
In the following year 10 more people were stoned to death but
the number declined after that.
AI reported that in 1990 four men accused of lavat with minors were beheaded in Mashad, at least 6 people were stoned to death, one was put to death by being thrown from a precipice., and a boy aged 17 was executed. In 1995 A.I. reported one person was stoned to death and two stoning sentences were temporarily halted after international campaigns.
Despite the enormous steps that have been taken internationally
toward the protection of human rights, many people around the
world are still living in fear of being persecuted, arrested,
tortured and even put on death row. The United Nations have pledged
in its charter and with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
to respect the human rights of all persons. However, many people
from very different backgrounds are victims of ill-treatment.
As discussed before, torture is any act in which severe pain
or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted
for any purpose such as punishment, obtaining information, intimidation,
coercion or for any other reason, when such pain or suffering
is inflicted either by or with the acquiescence of a public official.
All international treaties including the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party,
have in one way or another forbidden torture, inhuman, cruel and
degrading treatment and punishments. Article 38 of the constitution
of the Islamic Republic at least in wording has also prohibited
torture, although in the prosecution process and for confession
only and not as a punishment. The ICCPR calls for death punishments
to be imposed on serious crimes only, but the Islamic penal code
calls for different kinds of death penalty in cases where there
was no harm or injury to a person. In summary it can be stated
that the Islamic Republic's penal code is in contradiction with
the International Bill of Human Rights at least according to the
1- Death penalty for adultery and homosexuality is against the ICCPR and UDHR, because non of these acts can be considered a "serious crime" or crime of violence. Needless to say that some of these acts not only are not called crimes in the rest of the world but are accepted as Human Rights.
2- Stoning to death, amputation and beheading are inhuman and cruel punishments that can be considered torture. As such they are against all international treaties and Human Rights conventions.
3- The actual practices of the Iranian judicial system and the
Islamic jurisprudence do not eliminate capital punishment for
juveniles below 18 years of age , which is in full contradiction
with ICCPR and all international standards of Human Rights.
In conclusion it can be said that the Islamic Republic of Iran
should either withdraw her signature from the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights or follow the binding legal obligations stipulated in these
bills by revising the penal code. The second alternative however,
does not seem likely unless a total separation of religion and
state is declared.