Tehran, Nov. 3 (Reuters): Iranian reformist legislators said today they wanted to replace death by stoning with another form of punishment, following European criticism of the practice.
Under Iran’s strict Islamic law, in place since the 1979 Islamic revolution, only men and women convicted of adultery are normally sentenced to death by stoning.
The European Union has highlighted stoning as a major concern as part of discussions on Iran’s human rights record due to start in December. The Union opposes the death penalty.
It has linked the talks to negotiations on a trade and cooperation agreement with Tehran although Iranian officials insist the two issues are unrelated.
“Stoning is very rare in Iran, but even in those rare cases, I believe it should be replaced by another form of punishment,” female parliamentarian Akram Mosavarimanesh said.
“We are at the early stages of debating the issue, but I am hopeful about the fate of the proposal,” she said. She declined to say what alternative punishment could be applied and whether it would be lethal.
Those sentenced to stoning are buried in a pit — men up to their waists, women their armpits — and pelted with stones.
According to the law, the stones must be big enough to injure but not kill with just a few blows. If the victim manages to dig himself or herself out then they are acquitted.
Even if the proposal to replace stoning is adopted by the reformist-dominated parliament, it is likely to face opposition from the conservative-controlled Guardian Council, which vets legislation to make sure it is in accordance with Islamic law.
Stoning is on the statute books of a handful of Islamic countries, including Sudan, Yemen and Pakistan, but is rarely carried out.
The Nigerian government last week said it would prevent Islamic courts in the country from implementing any executions by stoning after a court upheld a stoning sentence against a 31-year-old Muslim woman convicted of adultery.