Iran: Proposed Penal Code Deeply FlawedProposed Amendments Would Violate Rights of Accused
(Beirut, August 29, 2012) – Proposed amendments to Iran’s penal code would violate the rights of accused people and criminal defendants, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Iranian authorities should suspend enactment of the proposed amendments and undertake a major overhaul of the country’s abusive penal laws, Human Rights Watch said.
The 48-page report, “Codifying Repression: An Assessment of Iran’s New Penal Code,” says that many problematic provisions of the current penal code remain unaddressed in the proposed amendments. Some of the amendments would weaken further the rights of criminal defendants and convicts and allow judges wide discretion to issue punishments that violate the rights of the accused. Lawmakers and judiciary officials have cited the amendments as a serious attempt to comply with Iran’s international human rightsobligations.
“These amendments do little to address penal code provisions that allow the government to jail, torture, and execute people who criticize the government,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If Iran wants to comply with its human rights obligations, it should completely and categorically ban deplorable practices like child executions, limb amputations, and stoning.”
In January 2012 the Guardian Council, an unelected body of 12 religious jurists charged with vetting all legislation to ensure its compatibility with Iran’s constitution and Sharia, or Islamic law, approved the final text of an amended penal code. Parliament and other supervisory bodies have approved and finalized the text of the amendments, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not yet signed the amended code into law. Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, who is the head of Iran’s judiciary, has ordered Iran’s courts to apply the old penal code until Ahmadinejad signs the new amendments into law, which could happen at any time.
Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, which went into effect in 1991, reflects the ruling clerics’ interpretation of Sharia law, based on the Jafari or Twelver Shia school of jurisprudence. It includes discretionary (ta’zir) punishments not specifically laid out in Sharia law that apply to most of Iran’s national security laws, under which political dissidents are convicted and sentenced in revolutionary courts.