(Washington, DC, February 6, 2008) – The head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi, should immediately revoke the sentences of death by stoning imposed on three persons convicted of adultery, Human Rights Watch said today. In separate cases, two sisters from the town of Shahriar in Tehran Province and a man from the town of Sari in the province of Mazandaran, are all at imminent risk of execution.“The Iranian government is set to execute three of its citizens in a horrendously brutal manner,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Judiciary must act now to end this inhuman form of punishment once and for all.”
In February 2007, authorities arrested sisters Zohreh Kabiri, 27, and Azar Kabiri, 28, on charges of having “illegal relationships” based on accusations made by one of their husbands. According to Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, “immoral” relationships such as those between men and women who are not married, may be subject to criminal punishment. One month after their arrest, Branch 128 of the General Court of the city of Karaj convicted and sentenced the sisters to 99 lashes.
Six months after officials handed down and executed the sentence, additional accusations by the husband of one of the sisters resulted in a second trial on more serious charges of adultery. Branch 80 of the Karaj Penal Court of the Tehran Province convicted the sisters on these charges and sentenced them to death by stoning. The Supreme Court has approved the ruling and the sentence may be carried out at any time.
The Islamic Penal Code of Iran allows execution as a punishment for adultery, and allows it to be carried out by stoning for this offense. The practice involves throwing stones at the convicted individual, who is buried up to the waist (if he is a man) or up to the chest (if she is a woman), until the individual dies from impact of the blows.
Jabar Solati, the lawyer for the two sisters, told Human Rights Watch that since the sentence has already been approved by the Supreme Court, only intervention by the country’s highest judicial official, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi, can prevent the stoning from being carried out.
Abdullah Farivar, 49, also faces execution by stoning. In December 2006, authorities in the northern town of Sari arrested Farivar on charges of adultery. A year later, Branch Two of the Penal Court of Sari convicted Farivar and sentenced him to death by stoning. The Supreme Court has approved the sentence. According to statements attributed in the media to Farivar’s family, local authorities informed them last week that the sentence would soon be carried out.
Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its cruel, inhumane, and irrevocable nature. Iran is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states in Article 6 that “in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes.” Executions for crimes “beyond intentional crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences,” are considered to violate the Covenant, and executions for adultery clearly fall into this category. According to Article 7 of the covenant, “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” As a particularly brutal form of execution, death by stoning violates the provisions of this Article.