Iran: Death by stoning suspended…but still legal!

Press Release from the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women!

Subject: Iran: Death by stoning suspended…but still legal!

The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women! (SKSW Campaign) welcome the news that the sentence of four Iranians to die by stoning has recently been commuted by the Iranian judiciary. The news was announced by the spokesman of the judiciary, Alireza Jamshidi, who also announced that the sentence of all other cases are also under review.

However, the SKSW Campaign could not celebrate quite yet. Punishment by stoning remains lawful under the new draft criminal code of Iran. Although the draft code stipulates that the prosecutor or judge may determine if stoning will reflect poorly upon the regime in a particular case and may therefore commute the sentence to execution or whipping, there are no standards by which the judge or the prosecutor could base his decision. Neither is there a clear-cut definition of the authority of the judge or prosecutor. The ambiguity of the law in this regard means that anyone is at risk of being arbitrarily sentenced to die by stoning. “Don’t forget. One cannot remove the punishment of stoning from the law” Mr. Jamshidi was quoted during his press interview on 4 August 2008, according to Sanaz Allah Bedashti, a reporter for .

Stoning is the penalty for crimes such as adultery under Iranian law. The last officially reported stoning in Iran in 2006 drew strong criticism from human rights groups, women’s movements and the international community. There are at least eight women and one man who have been sentenced to die by stoning based on various convictions including prostitution, incest and adultery. Two have been granted amnesty, two have had their sentences reduced to imprisonment and/or lashes and the further pending five cases have now been placed under review and are currently being investigated.

Mr. Jamshidi announced that there were nine cases of individuals sentenced to stoning, of which two were pardoned on behalf of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. However, according to the Network of Volunteer Lawyers in a separate press interview held two weeks ago, the actual number of cases is unknown. Members of the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign and the Network of Volunteer Lawyers are concerned that unless they make visible these yet unknown cases of stoning, authorities may carry out further death by stoning sentences without recourse or public awareness.

The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women! calls upon the Iranian authorities to absolutely and unequivocally make stoning illegal in the laws of Iran, and to ensure that this measure is upheld within the judicial system. The inclusion of stoning as a form of punishment must be withdrawn from the draft Criminal Code. We also call upon the legal and judicial system to implement the existing ban on stoning, which has been in place since 2002. Furthermore, we urge the Iranian authorities to make an account of how many of those who were sentenced to die by stoning are still in state custody and to identify them by their names and location. We ask that all persons charged with ‘adultery’ be immediately pardoned and released.

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