Iran: Through Human Rights, Global Advocacy & Action Stoning Can Be Stopped!

Women News Network


The U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1984 through resolution 39/46. The Convention entered into force on June 26, 1987.

This United Nations Convention against Torture defines torture as “… any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

Stoning surely fits this definition. It is a slow and painful process by which the victim eventually dies by blunt impact injury and blood loss.Global human rights agencies have long delayed their response to the spirit of international human rights treaties in taking a stand against stoning, which is one of the cruelest forms of torture that is used to punish men and women, often for adultery and other `improper’ sexual relations.

The practice of stoning should be banned under two grounds according to existing human rights treaties and conventions:

Under the ICCPR – International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, death penalties should only be executed for the most heinous crimes. The consensus within the majority of the international community is that adultery is not a heinous crime. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1984 Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty both specify that “capital punishment may be imposed only for the most serious crimes.”

Stoning should also be recognized as a form of torture in various human rights treaties and defined as cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment. Recognition of this has already been made by committees representing the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention against Torture; and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

United Nations Special Rapporteurs, who examine and monitor human rights conditions worldwide, have also brought the issue of stoning to the attention of the United Nations.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, as well as the Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions have each recognized stoning as a ‘inhuman and degrading punishment.’ The United Nations General Assembly has also recognized this.

While the practice of stoning is currently being carried out on both men and women worldwide, stoning is often identified through the context of gender inequality and through discriminatory laws against women. As extremist interpretations of Shari’a law categorize the issues of gender and sexuality, they also divide the definition of what is a ‘proper relation.’ Because of this, stoning has too often been used as a punitive form of punishment against women for ‘improper sexual relations.’

In 2006, eleven people were sentenced to death by stoning in Iran. Of these eleven people on death row, nine were women who were executed by stoning.

These individuals and groups worldwide can sentence and carry out the order for ‘execution by stoning’ through their own compliance and interpretation of Shari’a law, but they most often do this though extrajudicial, out of the courtroom, methods. Here we can see how the role of organized non-state actors, such as members of independent militias, etcetera, are often energized and supported by the State in carrying out a sentence of stoning informally. The strategy behind this is to create an environment of fear, threat and humiliation by releasing the State of its accountability.

When she became involved with a boyfriend at the age of 14, Somayyeh was stoned to death during an honour killing committed by her father, his friend and others in the city of Zahedan, Iran in 2008. “I had to select a method for killing her to truly punish her…,” said her father in a 2008 confession, as reported by Tehran newspaper Etemaad.

Honour crimes, FGM and stoning are often described as part of ‘tradition’ in the unchanging facet of ‘culture,’ but this conclusion brings no solutions.

Even one case of stoning is too many in the 14 countries where the practice still exists. The issue of stoning today is still not receiving the global attention it needs.

The human rights community, as well as women rights defenders and gender activists worldwide must call on the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a formal Resolution to ban stoning. Because of this we must encourage all member States of the U.N. to adopt and implement legislation to ban this cruel punishment. To do this member States must take all necessary legislative, political and operational measures to bring this practice to an end.

Ending the practice of stoning worldwide can create a pivotal moment in the global fight to end injustice.

Peace activist and WNN – Women News Network special reporter on Iran, Elahe Amani, works with immigrant women who are part of the South Asian, Iranian and the Middle Eastern ethnic communities in Southern California to help women from these communities build peace at home and in society. Amani is also chair of Global Circles at Women’s Intercultural Network, a global women’s organization with grassroot circles in Uganda, Japan and Afghanistan. Amani has also lectured through the Women’s Studies Department and is also on the advisory board of The Women Center at CSU – California State University in Long Beach, California.