Mehrangiz Kar - 2009.04.14
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.