Safe World for Women Logo


5. Execution and The Law


The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to defy the international laws and treaties to which it is a signatory.



International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Iran is a state party to the ICCPR, having signed on 4 April 1968 and ratified on 24 June 1975, four years before the Islamic Revolution, but has not implemented it. Iran did not make any declarations or reservations upon ratification and therefore agreed to abide by the treaty in full. By agreeing to uphold the ICCPR, Iran pledged to respect the lives, dignity and inherent rights of its citizens.

Article 6(4) of the ICCPR guarantees everyone the right to seek pardon or commutation of a sentence. It further stipulates that a pardon may be granted in all cases, including those where a death sentence has been imposed.

Article 14 of the ICCPR guarantees the right of the accused to choose or be appointed legal representation acting for their defense. All prisoners should be afforded and given reasonable access to an attorney acting on their behalf. It also guarantees defendants the right to be granted the free assistance of an interpreter if necessary.

Article 6(5) of the ICCPR forbids the imposition of a death sentence for juvenile offenders, or those who were under age 18 when the crime was committed.

However, the Islamic Penal Code considers boys criminally responsible at age 15 and girls at age 9. In 2007, one boy was executed for a crime allegedly committed when he was 13. The judge ruled that, because the child had already reached puberty, he was to be treated as an adult.



Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

Children are further protected by Article 37(a) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states:

No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age.

Iran signed the UNCRC on 5 September 1991 and ratified it on 13 July 1994, but made the following reservation: “if the text of the Convention is or becomes incompatible with the domestic laws and Islamic standards at any time or in any case, the Government of the Islamic Republic shall not abide by it.”



Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration that affirms states’ commitment to upholding inherent freedoms, liberties, and inalienable rights.

The UDHR is a non-binding agreement and is therefore not enforceable. However, it is recognized as international law and accepted is the basis for applying international and diplomatic pressure to avoid human rights violations.

The Islamic Republic has criticized the UDHR for not considering governments that are based on Sharia law.



Iranian Law

Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran

In force since 3 December 1979

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran makes repeated references in ensuring human rights and equal protection for women, but always with the stipulation “in accordance with Islamic principles” or a similar condition.

The following are excerpts from the Constitution that directly relate to women and children's rights. Iran has violated all of these provisions:

Women’s Rights

Article 21 states that the government must ensure the rights of women in all respects, in conformity with Islamic criteria, and accomplish the following goals:

  • Create a favorable environment for the growth of woman's personality and the restoration of her rights, both the material and intellectual.
  • The protection of mothers, particularly during pregnancy and childbearing, and the protection of children without guardians.
  • Establishing competent courts to protect and preserve the family.
  • The provision of special insurance for widows, and aged women and women without support.
  • The awarding of guardianship of children to worthy mothers, in order to protect the interests of the children, in the absence of a legal guardian.

Judicial Competence

Article 14 guarantees defendants the right to be granted the free assistance of an interpreter if necessary.

Article 23 of the constitution states, “investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

Article 37 states: "Innocence is the basic principle No person is considered legally guilty, except in cases where his guilt is established in a competent court."


Article 38: Any kind of torture used to extract an admission of guilt or to obtain information is forbidden. Compelling people to give evidence, or confess or take an oath is not allowed. Such evidence or confession or oath is null and void. Any person infringing this principle is to be punished in accordance with the law.

Personal Dignity

Article 39: Aspersion of the dignity of and respect due to any person who has been arrested or put in detention, or imprisoned or exiled by command of the law is forbidden in any form, and is liable to punishment.

Political Prisoners

Article 168: Political and press offenses will be tried openly and in the presence of a jury, in courts of justice. The manner of the selection of the jury, its powers, and the definition of political offenses, will be determined by law in accordance with the Islamic criteria.



Islamic Penal Code of Iran

Ratified 30 July 1991

Article 105 allows the judge to rule based on their personal knowledge or intuition of the defendant’s guilt.

If the presiding judge has first-hand knowledge that the defendant is guilty, no additional evidence is required to find the defendant guilty of the charge.

There are no female judges.

Crimes and Punishments - Terms

As defined by Chapter 2, Section 7.

Punishments are divided into four classes according to the types of crimes:

  1. Hudood - punishments whose nature and amount have been prescribed by the Shari'ah.
  2. Qisas - punishment to which an offender is sentenced, and which is equivalent to his offense.
  3. Diyat - monetary compensation prescribed for an offence by the Shari'ah.
  4. Ta'zeerat - chastisement (ta'deeb) or punishment ('Uqoobat) whose nature and amount has not been prescribed by the Shari'ah, and it has been left to the discretion of the judge, such as imprisonment, fine, or lashes which are more lenient than the amount of Hadd.


Most death sentences are pardonable by the Supreme Leader.

Children's rights

Section 26 protects children from legal liability, holding their parent or guardian responsible “for their correction under the supervision of the court.”

However, it also considers boys criminally responsible at age 15 and girls at age 9. Children may also be imprisoned until they reach age 18, at which time the sentence is carried out.

For example, in 2007, one boy was executed for a crime allegedly committed when he was 13. The judge ruled that, because the child had reached puberty, he was to be treated as an adult.

Women and Adultery

Book 2: Haads [punishments specified in Shari’a]

Article 63: Adultery is the act of intercourse, including anal intercourse, between a man and a woman who are forbidden to each other, unless the act is committed unwittingly.

Article 74: Adultery, whether punishable by flogging or stoning, may be proven by the testimony of four just men or that of three just men and two just women.

Article 82: The penalty for adultery in the following cases shall be death, regardless of the age or marital status of the culprit: (1) Adultery with one’s consanguineous relatives (close blood relatives forbidden to each other by religious law); (2) Adultery with one’s stepmother in which the adulterer’s punishment shall be death; (3) Adultery between a non-Muslim man and a Muslim woman, in which case the adulterer (non-Muslim man) shall receive the death penalty; (4) Forcible rape, in which case the rapist shall receive the death penalty.

The Islamic Penal Code stipulates that women are to be buried in the ground up to breast level and the stones must not be large enough to kill quickly.

Article 83: Adultery in the following cases shall be punishable by stoning: (1) Adultery by a married man who is wedded to a permanent wife with whom he has had intercourse and may have intercourse when he so desires; (2) Adultery of a married woman with an adult man provided the woman is permanently married and has had intercourse with her husband and is able to do so again. Note. Adultery of a married woman with a minor is punishable by flogging.

It is important to note that such stoning can also result in death.

Article 92: If the flogging of a pregnant woman or a woman nursing her child poses risks to the unborn or to the child respectively, the execution of the punishment shall be delayed until the said risk is no longer present.


Book 2: Haads [punishments specified in Shari’a]

Article 127: Mosaheqeh (lesbianism) is homosexuality of women by genitals.

Article 131: If the act of lesbianism is repeated three lashes and punishment is enforced each time, death sentence will be issued the fourth time.


Under the Iranian Penal Code murder is punishable by qesas-e nafs, or death.

Murder is treated as a private dispute and the state’s role is to facilitate the resolution of the dispute through the judicial process.

Under the Iranian penal code, murder is punishable either by qesas / qisas [retribution in kind] or by monetary compensation.

In cases of premeditated murder, the family of the victim has the right to ask for their relative's killer to be put to death.

The family can also choose to forgive the culprit and accept payment of diyeh (blood money) instead.

Qesas is not open to pardon or amnesty by the Supreme Leader.

Qisas Act

Passed August 1982

Qisas (or retaliation) is a punishment which is awarded as a retribution for the heirs of the offender, and must be commensurate with the offence.
There are two Kinds of Qisas: Qisas for life and Qisas for a part of the human body.

Section 1
A willful murder (qatl-i amd) is punishable by Qisas (or retaliation) and the heirs to the person murdered (owliya al-dam) may kill the murderer with the permission of a Muslim ruler (wali) or this representative in fulfillment on the conditions mentioned below.

Section 2 describes the conditions of willful murder:

  • if the murderer intends to kill, regardless of whether the act itself causes death
  • if the murderer intentionally commits an act that causes death, regardless of the intention [bombing as an example]
  • if the murderer knows that the victim has pre-existing conditions (health problems) that may lead to death as a result of the act, whether or not the act can cause death or the murderer intended to cause death


Section 22 outlines the conditions for Qisas:
A homicide is punishable by Qisas only in case the person killed has not been sentenced to death by law, so that if a person is already sentenced to death, the person killing him (or her) should prove before the court that he was entitled to kill him (or her).



Previous  -  Home  -  Next