Amnesty International is outraged by reports that Iranian authorities have amputated the hand of a man convicted of theft. The amputation, which was conducted by guillotine, took place yesterday in the central prison in Mashhad city in north-eastern Razavi Khorasan province, according to the state-sponsored newspaper Khorasan News.
According to Khorasan News, the 34-year-old man, referred to as A. Kh., was transferred to a medical centre immediately after the punishment was carried out. He was sentenced to hand amputation six years ago for stealing livestock and other valuables from several villages in the province. The sentence was then upheld by the Khorasan Criminal Court of Appeal.
“Meting out such unspeakably cruel punishments is not justice and serves to highlight the Iranian authorities’ complete disregard for human dignity. There is no place for such brutality in a robust criminal justice system,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“Amputation is torture plain and simple, and administering torture is a crime under international law. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is legally obliged to forbid torture in all circumstances and without exception. Those responsible for ordering and executing such practices should know that they are liable to criminal prosecution under international law.”
The Iranian authorities have consistently defended amputation as the best way to deter theft, expressing regret that it cannot be practiced in public and on a widespread basis without international condemnation. In a shocking statement before the UN Human Rights Council in October 2010, Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of Iran’s Human Rights Council, denied that such punishments amount to torture, claiming they are “culturally and religiously justified”.
In reality, however, a domestic movement to abolish such cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments has long been underway in Iran and many Iranians, including several human rights defenders, clerics and religious scholars, have expressed their opposition and faced persecution in reprisal.
“It is appalling that the Iranian authorities continue to impose and carry out amputation sentences, and justify this legalized brutality in the name of religion, culture and crime prevention. The Iranian authorities must urgently abolish all forms of corporal punishment and move towards a criminal justice system that is focused on rehabilitation and treats prisoners humanely,” said Mughrabi.
In 2017 alone, dozens of amputation sentences were imposed and subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court. In one case, in April 2017, judicial authorities in Shiraz, Fars province, amputated the hand of Hamid Moinee for robbery before executing him 10 days later for murder.
Before carrying out the amputation sentences, the authorities often arbitrarily imprison those convicted, even though no prison sentences are issued against them.
According to Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, between 2007 and 2017, the Iranian authorities issued at least 215 amputation sentences and carried out 125 amputations, including at least six amputations in public.
Dozens of prisoners are currently believed to be at risk of amputation across the country, including in Khorasan Razavi, Fars, Khuzestan, and Markazi provinces.
In 2017, judicial authorities in Iran imposed and carried out other cruel and inhuman punishments amounting to torture, including flogging and blinding.
For example, in January, journalist Hossein Movahedi was lashed 40 times in Najaf Abad, Esfahan province, after a court found him guilty of inaccurately reporting the number of motorcycles confiscated by police in the city.
In February, the Supreme Court upheld a blinding sentence issued by a criminal court in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province against a woman in retribution for blinding another woman.
In May, a woman arrested for having an extra-marital relationship was sentenced by a criminal court in Tehran to two years of washing corpses and 74 lashes. The man was sentenced to 99 lashes.
The Iranian regulatory code for implementation of corporal punishments such as amputation requires the presence of a physician for the assessment and enforcement of the sentence. This is in direct violation of ethical guidelines and international human rights law, which expressly prohibit health providers’ involvement in torture and other ill-treatment.