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Amnesty International Calls for Iran to Abolish Stoning Executions

Amnesty International has called on the Iranian government to abolish death by stoning, a penalty the group describes as grotesque and horrific. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from London.

A new report by Amnesty International calls for Iranian authorities to repeal or amend the country's penal code to stop the practice of stoning to death persons convicted of adultery.

The report says the government should also ensure compliance with a moratorium on stoning that was issued by the Head of the Judiciary in 2002. Three cases of stoning have been reported since the moratorium.

The report says there are currently nine women and two men awaiting death by stoning. It points out that women suffer disproportionately, because they do not receive equal treatment under the law.

Ann Harrison, a spokesperson for Amnesty, tells VOA that while stoning is considered a horrific punishment, it is only one of the ways used to carry out the death penalty.

"Death by stoning is a penalty specifically for adultery by married persons in Iran," she noted. "That is the only crime for which stoning is prescribed. Stoning is in fact very infrequently used in Iran. The vast majority of people are hanged, there are other methods which can be used if the judge specifies like being shot and recently, two men were sentenced to being thrown from a [great] height, but that is very unusual. Stoning though is usually only one or two a year out of perhaps several hundred executions in total."

Amnesty welcomed reports that Iran's parliament is discussing an amended penal code that would permit the suspension of at least some stoning sentences. But the Amnesty report urges the authorities to go further by ensuring the code neither permits stoning to death nor provides for execution by other means for adultery.

The report praises efforts by human rights defenders in Iran who launched the "Stop Stoning Forever" campaign, following stonings in 2006. It says the campaigners face harassment and intimidation by the authorities.

Amnesty International is against the death penalty in all situations.