After years of protest and criticism directed from the Iranian and international community towards the multitudes of human rights violations prescribed in the Iranian laws, for example allowing of inhumane punishments such as stoning and dismemberment or execution of minors and discrimination against women, the Islamic Consultative Majlis is on the verge of passing a bill that is not only ignorant to all the aforementioned criticisms, but also renders certain cases more severe.
Last week in an interview, the Speaker of the Guardian Council announced that the Council has finished its work on the Islamic Penal Bill and has returned the bill to the Majlis. The Majlis is in turn responsible to investigate the bill within the next three months and finalize the passing of it. The Bill will then replace the current Islamic Penal Code.
After careful inspection of this Bill, comprising of 737 articles, Justice For Iran presents its most serious concerns regarding the important changes that will transpire upon the passing of the Bill:
1- In the current Code, any form of sexual relations out of wedlock is a crime; sexual extramarital affair of men and women will carry the punishment of stoning. In the aforementioned Bill, the articles pertaining to the punishment of stoning (rajm) and all details of the manner of execution of this punishment has been omitted from the section. However, any form of sexual relations out of wedlock is still a crime. In other words, although the Bill considers sexual relations that take place out of wedlock to be a crime for both men and women, it does not prescribe a punishment for this crime. Initially, the omission of stoning from the Penal Code appears to be a positive development. But careful inspection of article 167 proves otherwise and affirms our concern. This article which stands opposed to the principle of legality of crimes and punishments, recognized in all valid legal systems, prescribes: “The judge is duty bound to make all efforts to find the proper sentence in the codified laws. If he fails to do so he should issued the sentence in accordance with the valid Islamic sources or valid fatawi. The judge cannot use the absence or insufficiency or brevity or conflict of the codified laws as excuse to refuse to issue a verdict.” Although stoning was omitted from the section under zena—adultery, it is mentioned in other sections such as under articles 172 and 198 which further emphasizes the severity of our concern. In other words, the new codification means that stoning will soon be omitted from the Penal Code as a form of punishment. However, the judges will be free to refer to the shari’a based fatwas for issuing a sentence of stoning and prescribing the manners in which it would be carried out.
2- In the case of the passing of this Bill, the punishment of execution will no longer be issued for minors who were charged with certain crimes, such as smuggling narcotics. However, it is still very likely that individuals under the age of 18 who have committed murder will be sentenced to execution. Based on this Bill, minors will only be exempt from execution if they can prove that they do not have the mental capacity to understand the nature or prohibition of their actions.
3- Multiple articles in this Bill are concerned with increasing the severity of punishments for people charged with “action against national security.” This is while presently almost all of the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience have been accused of “actions against national security” due to their activities in the fields of human rights, civil society, journalism, defending the rights of the minorities, or even for being a member of the Baha’i community. For example, under the new Bill, the punishments issued for individuals who have been sentenced to imprisonment or lashing for “actions against national security” can in no way be suspended or subject to a statute of limitation.
4- Although the Iranian and international community, in particular human rights activists and women’s rights movement as well as many governmental and non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations, The European Union, Amnesty International and others expressed multitudes of complaints and concerns regarding the many instances of sexual discrimination as well as the cruel and inhumane punishments, those ratifying this Bill have made no attempts to reform the following concerns:
– Value of a woman’s testimony is half that of a man. According to the new Bill, as in the old one, the testimony of two women is worth that of one man.
– A nine year old girl continues to have criminal responsibility and if she were to commit a crime, she will be dealt with as an adult. This is while the age of criminal responsibility for boys is 15 years.
– The value of physical harms inflicted (diya) for one woman would be half that of a man. Further,diya of non-Muslims will be half that of the Muslims. Based on this law, if a Christian, Jewish, or Zoroastrian woman loses her leg in an automobile accident, the amount of the monetary damages awarded to her will be a quarter of that awarded to a Muslim man in the same circumstances.
– Further, violent and inhumane punishments such as dismemberment as punishment for crimes such as theft or muharibih or as a form of retribution are prescribed within this Bill.
– Upon passing of the Islamic Penal Bill, sexual relations between two individuals of the same sex continue to be a crime and subject to punishments anywhere from one hundred lashes to execution.
Codified laws are one of the basic tools of institutionalizing citizen’s rights. Therefore, upon the passage of the Islamic Penal Bill, violation of human rights in various arenas will continue and increase in severity in a widespread and institutionalized manner. Justice For Iran invites all civil and international organizations, in particular the Human Rights Council of the United Nations and its Special Rapporteur, Mr. Ahmed Shahid to direct their attention to the imminent passage of this Bill. Justice For Iran further requests that the aforementioned organizations use all the methods at their disposal to effectively and constructively interfere in preventing the passage of laws that will cause the increase of violations of the rights of Iranian citizens for years to come.
To view the complete text of the Islamic Penal Bill (in Persian), refer to the link below:
To read the news regarding the interview of the Speaker of the Guardina Council (in Persian) refer to the link below:
For more information about Justice For Iran, refer to the link below:
To read reports about human rights violations and enter information about such violators, refer to this page: