Goudarz Eghtedari


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 be analyzed.


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 acts.


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.

Prosecution for homosexuality


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.

Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran and punishment for adultery and homosexuality.

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 would apply.

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;

  1. Introduction
  2. Hodud (divine will punishment)
  3. Qissas (retribution or talion)
  4. Diyat (compensation or blood money)
  5. Taazirat (penitence and preventive punishments)

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 for punishment.

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:

  1. Fornication with forbidden blood relative
  2. Fornication with mother in law
  3. Non-Moslem male who has sex with Moslem female
  4. Rapist

Article 83 sets the death by stoning for:

  1. Adult married male who has sex with another woman while having access to his wife and being able to have sex with her anytime he wants.
  2. Adult married female who has sex with another adult male while having access to her husband and being able to have sex with him.

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 100 strikes.

International Bill of Human Rights; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR)

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 court.

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 punishment.

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 requirements.

Application of the Penal Code in contradiction with the International Bills of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

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 ICCPR.

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 following criteria:

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.