Iran: Authorities amputate man's hand in shocking act of cruelty

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.

Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director said:

“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.

“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 (ICCPR), Iran is legally obliged to forbid torture in all circumstances and without exception. Those responsible for ordering and executing such practices should be liable to criminal prosecution.

“It is appalling that the Iranian authorities continue to impose and carry out amputation sentences, and justify this legalised 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.”

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, 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 clerics and religious scholars, have expressed their opposition and faced persecution in reprisal.  

In 2017, dozens of amputation sentences were imposed and subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court. In one case, judicial authorities in Shiraz, Fars province, amputated the hand of Hamid Moinee in April 2017 before executing him 10 days later after being convicted of robbery and murder.

 

Background

In 2017 judicial authorities in Iran continued to impose and carry 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 August, a criminal court in Markazi province sentenced trade unionist Shapour Ehsanirad to 30 lashes and six months’ imprisonment for participating in a protest against unjust work conditions.

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 regulatory code for implementation of corporal punishments such as amputation in Iran 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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