Monday, April 13, 2009

The Death Penalty
Mehrangiz Kar - 2009.04.14


According to reports by Amnesty International, at least 346 people received the death ‎punishment in Iran in 2008. This makes Iran the country with the second highest number ‎of court-ruled death cases in the world. China occupies the first position with 1718 ‎capital punishment cases. But if one considers the populations of these two countries, ‎then Iran leads the world in deaths per capita, and China follows suit.‎
The AI report says that eight of those executed in Iran had committed crimes before they ‎had reached the age of 18. The methods used to execute the court orders in Iran were ‎hanging by rope and stoning, which are inhuman. One can add to the comments made in ‎the AI report that in most countries that support the capital punishment, there are ‎continuous efforts through scientific quarters to find ways to reduce the pain caused to ‎those who face such a fate. In Iran however, the case is just the opposite and the ‎proponents of the death penalty are in continuous search for ways to increase the pain ‎that the person facing death will bear, and add physical and psychological torture as well. ‎Carrying out executions in public is one such example, which was decided last year with ‎the purpose of adding torment to the victim and arousing zeal among those watching the ‎event.‎
While the political atmosphere in Iran is dangerous and costly for human rights activists, ‎human rights groups in the country continue to voice their protests against such practices ‎by providing information to relevant international organizations. So the Iranian ‎government is under pressure regarding this not only from international groups, but also ‎domestic human rights activists whose aim is to end this practice altogether.‎
The Iranian government occasionally tries to respond to these protests and thus reduce ‎the pressures from the international bodies. In some cases official spokespeople of the ‎Islamic Republic have stressed that these acts are sanctioned by the criminal laws of the ‎country which are based in religious principles, or that the executions are carried out ‎because of the calls by the families of the victims of the crime. These spokespersons ‎portray the image as if execution is only for the most serious homicide criminals. The ‎reality is quite the contrary. The provisions of the criminal law of Iran also apply to those ‎who have not shed blood and who have not trespassed on the rights of others. They ‎include those who hold different religious or sexual orientations, which may result in the ‎death penalty.‎
But the provisions of the Ghesas law (literally meaning punishment in kind) which has ‎become the center-piece for the official spokespersons of the Islamic regime in Tehran ‎and the proponents of the death penalty, are not what they are normally portrayed to be ‎by these advocates. This law does not recognize that the penal provisions for crimes ‎involving blood and life should be equal and similar among all Iranian citizens. It is a law ‎that is heavily discriminatory. It is based on who has killed who. The punishment is based ‎on varies according to such questions as was the victim a man or a woman, a Muslim or a ‎non-Muslim, a believer or an infidel, supporter of the regime or its critic, etc. There are ‎circumstances when the criminal is acquitted of his crimes, and others when the ‎punishment against him is inflated, and in some cases he is not even recognized to have ‎committed a crime. For example, if a father or a grand-father kills his own child or his ‎grand-child, he does not receive the Ghesas punishment (see article 220 of the Islamic ‎Penal Code.) According to article 630 of the law, a husband who kills his wife and a man ‎with who he thinks is having an affair with his wife faces no punishment. Under another ‎provision of the law, if a man kills a person and proves in court that the victim was ‎‎“worthy of death by religious decree” then he walks out of the courtroom a free man. ‎
So the claims that government spokes persons make that the Ghesas law is based on ‎equality of law for all Iranian citizens is not true. The law specifically does not allow for ‎Ghesas (punishment in kind) if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim. It also does not provide for ‎Ghesas for a man who kills a woman. According to this law, some criminals have ‎exemptions and privileges under the law over other criminals and the blood of some ‎citizens is absolutely worthless before it.‎
Such legislature has no value or credibility from a legal perspective. Laws must reflect ‎the conditions of the time they represent. The penal laws that Iranian citizens must resort ‎to in their search for justice on one hand provide the death penalty for many private acts ‎that do not trespass on peace and freedom of others, while on the other protects groups of ‎criminals who kill other citizens without facing any punishment. These laws do not ‎provide any security to the public. And what are the benefits to society of such ‎punishments as stoning or hanging? Probably the best respond to this question lies in the ‎fact that crime and wrongdoing is on the rise in Iran.‎


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