Iran: SKSW/WLUML Statement on planned stoning to death of young mother in East Azerbaijan Province


The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women and the International Solidarity Network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws urge all concerned to immediately contact the Iranian officials to express their concern over the planned stoning to death of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani. On 15 May 2006, Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was convicted of having an ‘illicit relationship’ with two men and was sentenced to 99 lashes by Branch 101 of the Criminal Court of Osku, in East Azerbaijan Province. Then, in a September 2006 trial of a man accused of murdering her husband, Mohammadi-Ashtiani was once again accused of committing ‘fornication while married’. During this trial, Mohammadi-Ashtiani retracted the ‘confession’ she supposedly made during pre-trial interrogation, alleging that she had been coerced to confess under duress, and declared her innocence. Two of the five judges found her not guilty, pointing to the lack of evidentiary proof in the case against her, and noting that she had already suffered 99 lashes due to her previous sentencing. Even though double jeopardy is illegal in Iran, the other three judges, including the presiding judge, found Sakineh guilty on the basis of the ‘judge’s intuition’, a provision in Iranian law that allows judges to make their own subjective and arbitrary rulings based on a ‘gut feeling’, even in the absence of clear or conclusive evidence. Mohammadi-Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning on 10 September 2006.

A mother of two young children, Mohammadi-Ashtiani has asked for amnesty from the Judiciary twice, but both times her requests have been denied.

Mohammadi-Ashtiani's lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaie, states that with all the complexities and confusion over her case, his client should not be executed, let alone stoned to death, and that her repentance is enough to warrant a pardon. Mostafaie has pleaded the Head of the Judiciary, Head of the Provincial Judiciary and members of the Amnesty Body to commute Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s sentence to one that enables her to return to her life and children. In previous cases, Ayatollah Shahroudi, the former Head of the Judiciary in Iran, has commuted stoning sentences with the approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene’i.

The newly proposed draft of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran contains provisions for annulling stoning sentences when the execution of such a sentence would damage the reputation of the Islamic Republic and lead to the degradation of Islam.

The Stop Stoning Forever Campaign, a grassroots initiative in Iran, has been urging Iranian officials to repeal the stoning law since its formation in 2006. There is no mention of stoning in the Qur’an and many prominent Ayatollahs, or religious scholars, have spoken in support of a ban on stoning in Iran. Many Muslim nations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Tunisia, Algeria and others have banned death by stoning. Despite calls for abolition from around the globe, stoning is still legal in Iran and judges continue to issue and implement stoning sentences.

The Iranian Constitution forbids the use of torture. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) demands that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

As a state party to the ICCPR, Iran has also made an explicit and unreserved commitment under article 6(2) that if the death sentence is imposed it is to be “only for the most serious crimes.” The UN Human Rights Committee (in the case of Toonen v Australia) has made it clear that treating adultery and fornication as criminal offences does not comply with international human rights standards.