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Iran: Amputation of man's hand for theft 'an abhorrent form of torture'

Responding to the Iranian authorities’ announcement yesterday that they had amputated the hand of a man imprisoned for theft in a prison in Sari in the northern province of Mazandaran, Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director, said:

“Premeditated maiming and mutilation of individuals is not justice. It is a harrowing assault against human dignity. It is shameful that the authorities would attempt to present this punishment as anything other than what it is: an abhorrent form of torture.

“By carrying out this unspeakably cruel punishment, the Iranian authorities have committed torture which is a crime under international law. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and also under customary international law, Iran is legally obliged to forbid torture in all circumstances and without exception.

“Reforms to Iran’s penal code that would put an end to this outrageous practice are long overdue. Iranian parliamentarians must immediately undertake reforms to abolish all forms of corporal punishment and move towards a criminal justice system that treats prisoners humanely and focuses on rehabilitation.”

In a statement issued yesterday, the Justice Department of Mazandaran province claimed that the amputation of the man’s hand was part of “the justice department’s policy to crackdown, severely and without hesitation, on those who disrupt public order and security and steal public funds”.

The statement also claimed that members of the public welcome and expect such punishments even though a domestic movement to abolish such cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments has long been underway in Iran.

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.

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