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Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation

A Flogging Interactive in Support of Victims of Torture

On December 12, 1997, the United Nations proclaimed June 26 as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, with the goal of eradicating torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. On this occasion, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation introduces an Interactive Map of Flogging Sentences with the aim of drawing the attention of Iranians and the international community to a widely implemented and under-reported punishment. In the past 35 years, the implementation of the flogging punishment has caused significant physical and psychological harm to thousands of individuals of diverse ages and social backgrounds.

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In the Islamic Republic of Iran, at least 148 crimes are punishable by flogging. The laws related to flogging are broad and encompass a wide array of acts recognized as crimes. The criminal code recognizes corporal punishment (hadd and ta’zir[1]) for offenses such as:  consumption of alcohol, drug use, and petty drug dealing, theft, adultery, “flouting” of public morals, illegitimate relationships, and mixing of the sexes in public.

Flogging is also used in interrogations, presumably to punish the detainee for not telling the truth. In the case of political prisoners, flogging was routinely used in the 1980s. Interrogators continue to use flogging, but its use is more often reported in the case of political detainees from specific political or ethnic groups. Judges have also the latitude to mete out corporal punishment for those sentenced to death. In such cases, the flogging is carried out before the execution to maximize the convict’s suffering.[2]

The use of corporal punishment is addressed in several international agreements. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, states that, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Identical language is also used in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is also a party. Corporal punishment that amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment, including flogging, is prohibited under international law, and countries cannot justify it by invoking domestic law.[3]

The aim of the Flogging Interactive is to help understand the nature and widespread use of a cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment that affects Iran’s population at large and needs to be addressed urgently.

Data from the Flogging Interactive is not exhaustive, since the trauma and the stigma attached to such corporal punishment prevent most victims from reporting it. Further, Iranian authorities do not systematically or thoroughly release information on flogging sentences or their implementation. The situation in Mazandaran Province is particularly alarming, as drinking alcohol and mixing of the sexes is frequent on the Caspian Sea shore, a high traffic vacation spot for Iranians.

noname (1)On June 29, 2009, for example, Hojatoleslam Hassan Asadi, Behshahr Chief Justice, stated that in one year, 1,321 flogging sentences had been implemented in Behshahr, in Mazandaran Province. In another instance, on December 31, 2012, Hojatoleslam Hossein Talebi, the Chief Justice in Mazandaran Province, stated that 10,814 flogging sentences had been implemented throughout the province in a period of 8 months. Very few of these flogging cases have been reported by the media.

The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation strongly condemns flogging, which amounts to torture, and calls on the Iranian authorities to eliminate it from Iran’s laws and practice. ABF also calls on victims and witnesses to report flogging cases and to help make more accurate the Interactive Map’s dates. It further hopes that informing Iranian citizens and authorities, as well as the international community, of the scope of such violent punishment imposed on society will be a step toward its elimination.

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[1] – Crimes punishable by hadd are those with fixed punishments in Islamic sources. These include crimes such as illicit sex, adultery, sodomy, homosexual behavior between women, and the consumption of intoxicants and are punishable by the death penalty, stoning to death, amputation, and flogging.

– Crimes punishable by ta’zir, unlike those punished by hadd, are those for which punishments are not fixed and instead are left to the discretion of the Shari’a judge. However, most ta’zir crimes are dealt with in the Penal Code, and the judge may or may not apply the punishments prescribed in the Code.

[2] Flogging must be administered, according to the Islamic Republic’s criminal code, to a male detainee while he is standing and stripped of his clothes, with the exception of his genitals. The lashing should not target the man’s head, face, or genitals. Women are to be flogged seated, with their clothes tight to their body. See, Criminal Code, Section 3, Article 176.

[3] The strongest expression of international disapproval is contained in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). This treaty defines torture as, “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as … punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed.” Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has yet to sign the CAT, the prohibition on torture is now considered jus cogens and, therefore, to be part of customary international law.

In his first report to the United Nations General Assembly, on 30 August 2005, Manfred Nowak, then Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, called on states to “abolish all forms of judicial and administrative corporal punishment without delay.” He pointed out that the term “lawful sanctions” in article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention against Torture must be interpreted as referring both to domestic and international law. On the basis of the review of jurisprudence of international and regional human rights mechanisms, the Special Rapporteur concludes that “any form of corporal punishment is contrary to the prohibition of torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” and that “States cannot invoke provisions of domestic law to justify the violation of their human rights obligations under international law, including the prohibition of corporal punishment.”

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The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-governmental organization, founded in April 2001, and dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran. The Foundation is an independent organization with no political affiliation and is committed to promoting human rights awareness through education and the dissemination of information as necessary prerequisites for the establishment of a stable democracy in Iran. Please visit us at www.iranrights.org and www.facebook.com/iranrights. All donations are tax deductible.

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