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Featured Article: Seven Women Face Stoning in Iran

By Alison Langley
Inter Press News Agency
September 29, 2006

Amnesty International has issued an urgent appeal calling on its members to write letters to the Republic of Iran asking them not to stone seven women. Nearly all of the women have been sentenced to die by stoning for adultery.

Officially Iran had placed a moratorium on the cruel and painful practice in 2002, but Amnesty claims sentencing continues. The group has received credible reports that two people were stoned to death in May. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has ruled that treating adultery and fornication as criminal offences does not comply with international human rights standards. "The sentence of execution by stoning for adultery breaches Iran's commitment under article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that death sentences will be imposed 'only for the most serious crimes'," Amnesty wrote in its appeal.

Under Shari'a law, a prisoner is buried up to her breast, her hands restrained. Rules also specify the size of the stones which can be thrown so that death is painful and not imminent. Both men and women can be sentenced to die by stoning. In practice, however, an overwhelming number of women receive that penalty. "It's high time this brutal practice ends. Not only are people deprived of their right to life by the state but they are tortured in the process," Nicole Choueiry, Amnesty's Middle East press officer, told IPS. "Iran should review its legislation as a matter of urgency to bring it into line with international human rights standards," she added.

According to an independent legal analysis of the country's penal code, Iranian judges are required to issue these mandatory sentences. Rarely, IPS sources inside Iran said are these sentences carried out. One lawyer, who asked not to be named, told IPS that the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi, frequently has been able to postpone executions. He does not, however, have the authority to commute death sentences to life imprisonment.

In addition to the seven women mentioned in the latest report, Amnesty earlier issued reports of two other Iranians also allegedly at risk of being stoned.

According to Amnesty, Parisa A. received her execution sentence while working as a prostitute in the city of Shiraz. She claims she had been forced into prostitution by her husband due to her family's poverty. Her sentence was upheld by a branch of the Supreme Court in November 2005. Her case is under review by the high court.

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