An Iranian woman charged with adultery faces death by stoning in the next five days after her death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court last month. Her unnamed co-defendant is at risk of imminent execution by hanging. Amnesty International members are now writing urgent appeals to the Iranian authorities, calling for the execution to be stopped.
According to reports, Hajieh Esmailvand was sentenced to five years imprisonment, to be followed by execution by stoning, for adultery with an unnamed man who at the time was a 17 year old minor. Although the exact date of her arrest and trial are not known, it is reported that she has been imprisoned in the town of Jolfa, in the north west of Iran, since January 2000.
The Iranian Penal Code is very specific about the manner of execution and types of stones which should be used. Article 102 states that men will be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones.
All death sentences in Iran must be upheld by the Supreme Court before they can be carried out. In November 2004, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against Hajieh Esmailvand but changed the lower court's verdict from death by hanging to death by stoning. Reports suggest that the Supreme Court has ordered that the remainder of Hajiehs five year prison sentence be annulled so that the stoning sentence can be carried out before 21 December.
Amnesty International UK Media Director Mike Blakemore said:
"This is an urgent case. Hejieh could be killed in the next five days if we do not act quickly. Our members here in the UK are writing to the Iranian authorities, imploring them to stop this brutal execution. Campaigners in Iran are also taking action. But we need more people to stand up and be counted, to tell the Iranian authorities that this is not acceptable.
"Every day, thousands of women across the world face repression and violence, just because they are women. From the battlefield to the bedroom, women are at risk. Violence against women is a human rights atrocity and one we must tackle immediately."
The news follows reports of a 19-year old girl, "Leyla M", who has a mental age of eight, reportedly facing imminent execution for "morality-related" offences in Iran after being forced into prostitution by her mother as a child. According to a Tehran newspaper report of 28 November, she was sentenced to death by a court in the central Iranian city of Arak and the sentence has now been passed to the Supreme Court for confirmation.
Leyla M was reportedly sentenced to death on charges of "acts contrary to chastity" by controlling a brothel, having intercourse with blood relatives and giving birth to an illegitimate child. She is to be flogged before she is executed. She had apparently confessed to the charges.
Leyla was forced into prostitution by her mother when she was eight years old, according to the 28 November report, and was raped repeatedly thereafter. She gave birth to her first child when she was nine, and was sentenced to 100 lashes for prostitution at around the same time. At the age of 12, her family sold her to an Afghan man to become his temporary wife.
His mother became her new pimp, selling her body without her consent. At the age of 14 she became pregnant again, and received a further 100 lashes, after which she was moved to a maternity ward to give birth to twins. After this "temporary marriage", her family sold her again, to a 55-year-old man, married with two children, who had Leylas customers come to his house.
One in three women around the world suffer serious violence in their lifetime, at home, in the community or in war, just because they are women. Amnesty International is running a global campaign to 'Stop Violence Against Women'. The human rights organisation is calling on governments to repeal laws that permit and encourage violence against women, and on communities to challenge attitudes that allow violence to continue. For more information visit: www.amnesty.org.uk/svaw.
Amnesty International is aware of at least one case in which a sentence of execution by stoning has reportedly been issued this year. According to a report on 8 January 2004 in the Iran newspaper, a criminal court in the city of Qazvin sentenced an unnamed man to 80 lashes and 10 years' imprisonment to be followed by execution by stoning. It is not known whether this sentence has been carried out.
Amnesty International believes that the death penalty is the most extreme form of torture. It is a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
It is clear that the punishment of stoning is designed to cause the victim grievous pain before leading to death. Such methods of execution specifically designed to increase the suffering of victims are of particular concern to Amnesty International, as the most extreme and cruel form of torture.