Justice under the Islamic Republic of Iranrrespond to the necessities of our time. The penal system of the Islamic Republic of Iran is not in compliance with our society’s expectations. Our Iranian norms of morality and Islamic jurisdiction cannot complement each other. To describe how this system was mechanically imposed on our society, we must go back to the first years after the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran to see how the IRI steadily developed an ever greater repression with a growth in the number of executions and increasing violence throughout the country.
Accused persons were put up on trial with no previous warning of the charges, no opportunity to prepare a defence
Immediately after the February 1979 Revolution, Islamic revolutionary courts were set up to prosecute agents and high-ranking officials, both military and civilian, of the Pahlavi regime. People were tried under retroactive legislation for acts which did not constitute penal offences at the time when they were committed. Since 1979, according to opposition groups, at least some 3,350 persons had been executed, more than 2,000 of them since the dismissal of the Islamic Republic’s first president Abolhassan Bani Sadr, i.e. from June to October 1981.
Accused persons were put up on trial with no previous warning of the charges, no opportunity to prepare a defence, to engage a lawyer or to bring witnesses in their defence. They were condemned to death and immediately executed without any rights of appeal. Those not condemned to death were in peril of double jeopardy (1). Death sentences have been accompanied by flogging or carried out by stoning.
Having dealt with former officials of the Shah’s regime, the Islamic courts began to concentrate on people accused of moral transgressions of Islamic laws and of being “counter-revolutionaries (i.e. anyone opposed to the Khomeini regime). The charges included “corruption on earth” and “waging war against God, his Prophet, his Imam and representatives of the Imam”. This policy followed the line of action which Grand Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini emphasised in a speech in the Feyzieh Islamic Institute of Learning: “It is a day to day programme of identifying the opponents of Islam, our struggle against them shall become more intense” (2). And so it did.
The repression discarded any law. Examples of this arbitrary rule were as follows:
- Many prisoners under the Shah’s regime were released in February 1979, only to be arrested and imprisoned afterward, if not executed.
- Ethnic minorities (Kurds, Azeris, Arabs, Turkmens, and Balouchis) have seen their demand for certain autonomy and cultural rights met with a savage repression. Cases of massacres, imprisonment and executions of the Kurds and Turkmens were widely reported;
- Religious groups banned by the Islamic Republic have been increasingly harassed. The Baha’is, a faith officially forbidden by the Islamic Republic (it was forbidden under the previous regime, but tolerated) who represented a population of half million in Iran before the Revolution, faced charges such as promotion of prostitution, cooperation with Zionism, spying for imperialist powers, corruption on earth and war against God. Thousands of them have lost their homes and possessions, dismissed from their jobs and many of them forced to convert to Islam or be executed by revolutionary firing squads;
Sheykh Sadeq Khalkhali was one of the most vicious of Khomeini's Islamic judge, killing many people on the spot.
- The main opposition groups after the overthrow of the Shah (democratic groups, moderate Islamic organisations, communists, the MKO and other leftist organisations) were severely repressed. Not a week has passed without arrests and executions of some of their members, particularly among the MKO, the Communists and other leftist guerrillas;
- Writers, poets, journalists and artists, scholars and dissidents were (and are) particularly harassed. The first Islamic Revolutionary Judge, Sheik Sadeq Khalkhali, an infamous psychopath cleric, did not hesitate to demand the execution of prominent intellectuals such as Ahmad Shamlou, one of Iran’s most popular national poets. Khalkhali was responsible for many arbitrary, on the spot executions. According to judge Abdolkarim Ardibili, a former president of the Supreme Court, many defence lawyers were arrested, imprisoned and in at least one case, executed;
- Those who faced firing squads included women and youths. It was reported in The Times magazine of 20 September 1981 that 150 youngsters were shot in a mass execution on 4 September (3). In a statement, former Tehran’s revolutionary prosecutor, Assadollah Lajevardi (who was assassinates in the Bazaar of Tehran), declared: “Of course, even a 9 year old can be executed if it was proved to the court that he or she is grown enough”(4).
- “Counter-revolutionary activities” included the distribution of leaflets, incitement of innocent youths to subversion, and participation in demonstrations (charges often leading to death sentences). In a campaign to muzzle dissent in the schools, the IRI arrested teenagers. The number of students barred from school was estimated at over 70,000 in the first two years after the revolution”;
Khalkhali was responsible for many arbitrary, on the spot executions.
- Cases of torture and ill-treatment had been regularly reported. The IRI sought to justify these measures as necessary to repress attacks made by terrorists. Undoubtedly, the attack against the Islamic Republic Party (IRP) on 28 June, 1981 (killing 74 of the party’s officials, including Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, considered as a master mind of the Islamic Revolution) and the bombing on 30 August 1981of the presidential office, killing president Mohammad Ali Raja’i and the prime minister Mohammad Bahonar, were turning points in the escalation of violence of the regime against all dissidents. The regime demanded people to help the Judicial Body for arrest of anti-revolutionaries, even if they belong to their relatives;
- IRI’s Foreign Ministry on 12 August 1981, ordered Iranian embassies and missions abroad to draw up a list of Baha’is, counter-revolutionaries and “so-called students” living in their jurisdiction. It also prohibited the renewal of their passport and ordered instead to delivery of a “transit-paper” which is valid only for a return journey to Iran (6);
- Defending political prisoners became very difficult for lawyers. Indeed, according to statements by higher judicial officials, the defence of offenders would be contrary to Islamic laws, in that the defender is thereby an accessory to the accused person’s crimes. This was the case of Mr. Mohsen Jahandar, a lawyer, who had been accused of defending prisoners at Revolutionary Committees, condemned to death and shot before a firing squad about the end of August, 1981;
- The Islamic revolutionary tribunals tried cases which were not within their jurisdiction as defined in the regulation (7). These include charges of homosexuality, prostitution, adultery, simple theft and drinking alcohol. Sentences of death by firing squad or by stoning were imposed for homosexuality, prostitution and adultery, the cutting off h a hand for simple theft.
- The IRI not only discarded its own jurisdiction, but on the highest authority justified violence in the streets. On 19, September, 1981, in an address broadcasted on radio and television, Ayatollah Moussavi, the Revolutionary Procurator General, stated that “to kill the people who stand against this regime and its just Imam (Khomeini) is a prescribed duty according to Islamic laws. If they are captured, our men will not let them eat and sleep for a few months. The trial of these people is in the streets. I also order the city prosecutors to do the same; otherwise they themselves will be punished” (8).
On the same day, Ayatollah Mohammadi Gillani, the Islamic judge of Tehran, stated at a press conference in Evin prison, that: “Islam permits people engaged in armed demonstrations in the streets to be captured, stood against the wall in the street and shot”.
The highlight of repression starts with the Bill of Retribu, a series of articles fixing the worth of a man's life to100 camels or 200 cows and that of a woman to half of the man's, or 50 camels or 100 cows.
In January 1981, the Bill of Retribution was submitted to the Majles, or the Iranian Parliament, which mandated stoning, the amputation of limbs and the gouging out of eyes as punishment. In some cities, the clergy did not wait for legal sanction but had already begun to practice Islamic Justice on their own.
Public response was initially muted by disbelief, which gave way to a horrified outcry. Progressive analyses of the Bill were circulated. Organisations of minorities, women, students and other democratic forces demonstrated. But the Parliament responded with silence, then, in September, 1981, the Bill was passed.
The Bill assumes that the human body and its parts are convertible into money. The idea of receiving blood money is based on this kind of assumption. Here the class nature of this bill is revealed; it serves only the rich. Only they can afford to pay fines for their crimes in lieu of physical punishment. The following descriptions show how this barbaric bill can turn our society into the dark ages:
--the Bill ignores the fact that the essence of punishment is the rehabilitation of the individual and the society. It defines punishment as individual retaliation. The social aspect of crimes is completely neglected so that punishment becomes a right of the next of kin, or the private plaintiff. This symbolises a return to a tribal age when feuds were the custom; (ARTICLE 7)
--in this bill, the value of a woman is assumed to be half that of a man. In a case of voluntary man slaughter, her testimony has no value. In the case of the murder of a woman by a man, the family of the woman must pay the murderer half of his blood money before retaliating. Otherwise there will be no punishment; he merely has to pay the blood money of the woman, which is half that of a man; (ARTICLE 5)
-- “Dieh” (the cash value of the fine for killing a person) for a woman intentionally or not is half as much as for a man. However, if a man intentionally murders a woman and the guardian of the woman himself is not able to pay half of the Dieh (the value of 50 camels or 100 cows, the difference between the value of a man to that of a woman's life) to the murderer the murderer will be exempted from retribution; (CLAUSE 6)
--murder committed in the line of duty still demands retaliation, thus, if a commander orders his soldier or police to kill someone, the one who was compelled to follow the orders of their commander can be sentenced to death, while the commander will be only sentenced to imprisonment; (ARTICLE 4)
--according to the Bill, it is permissible to kill one’s child. In other words, if the father or paternal grandfather murders his child, even if the child is fifty years old, he will be exempt from retaliation; (ARTICLE 6)
--according to the Bill, people can be killed for insulting the prophet or the saints and the murderer will be exempt from the punishment. (ARTICLE23)--this Article is a tool for the suppression of all those who politically or ideologically oppose the IRI;
--according to the Bill, if a person is sentenced to several penalties, all the penalties will be carried out. This is contrary to the laws of the rest of the world, where only the highest penalty is implemented. For example, if the penalty includes whipping and stoning to death, the assailant will be whipped first and then stoned to death; (ARTICLE 110)
--the Bill, in many of its articles, discriminates against the non-Muslim citizen of Iran and his rights to half or even less than those of Muslim citizen. (ARTICLES 100, 151) in other Articles of the Bill, in order to avoid public condemnation, the principle of discrimination against non-Muslims is stated implicitly;
--according to the Bill, a man can murder his wife and her companion in the case of adultery. He will not be punished;
--the code does not provide any punishment in case of the murder of an individual who is mentally ill;
--the sentence for consuming alcohol for the first time is whipping. However, the third time that a person is accused of drinking alcohol; he will be sentenced to death;
The Bill of Retribution states that all the penalties should be implemented in public. The Islamic Judge should notify the public of the time of the event. It is necessary that at least three Muslims be present during the ceremonies;
--in all the cases, guilt is proven through confession or the testimony of witness. It is enough for two Islamic Committee members or Revolutionary Guards to falsely testify against a person to endanger his life;
--by emphasising confession as a means of proving guilt, the Bill paves the way for torturing individuals in order to force them to confess;
--according to the Bill, married men and women will be stoned to death for adultery. The sentence will be implemented with full medieval ceremony. (ARTICLE 100)
The Bill describes the penalty as follows: “The man up to his waist and the woman up to her chest will be placed in a ditch and then stoned. The stones should neither be too big nor too small. ”Big stones kill too quickly.
It is important to note that the Bill, in many cases, is in conflict with the Constitution of the IRI, ratified by the same ruling organs! The Bill explicitly violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which obliges the government and its Muslim citizens to deal fairly with non-Muslims citizens and to observe their Constitutional rights; Article 19, which states that Iranian people of any tribe or sect have equal rights, and that colour, race, language, gender, will not be reasons for withholding privileges; and Article 20 which guarantees all Iranian citizens, both men and women, equality under the Constitution. ENDS RASHIDIAN 241207.
1) Human Rights Violations in the Republic of Iran, Chicago, 11, May 1980.
2) Imam Khomeini,”The revolutionary line”, Great Islamic Library.
3) Time Magazine, 20, September 1981.
4) International Herald Tribune, 30, September 1981
5) Qiam Iran newspaper, Tehran 28 June 1981.
6) ICJ Review No.26, p.23.
7) See ICJ Review No.25, at p.21.
8) Keyhan newspaper, Tehran, 20 September 1981.
Editor's note: Mr. Rashidian is a political activist and human rights campainer living in Germany. He contributes with many Iranian and foreign blogs and sites.