Convicted Thief’s Hand ‘Amputated’ for Stealing in Northeastern Iran

Iranian media say a 34-year-old man had a hand chopped off as punishment for stealing livestock in the northeastern province of Razavi Khorasan, RFERL reports.

The local, state-sponsored newspaper Khorasan reported that the amputation took place on January 17 in the central prison in the provincial capital, Mashhad. The man, referred to as A. Kh., was transferred to a medical center after the punishment was carried out, the paper said. He was sentenced to hand amputation six years ago, and the sentence was later upheld by an appeals court.

A semi-official news agency is reporting that authorities in Iran have amputated the hand of a convicted thief in a prison in the country’s northeast. The report from the ISNA news agency says one hand of the 34-year-old convict identified only as Ali was cut off by “guillotine” in a prison in Mashhad, some 900 kilometers (550 miles) northeast of the capital Tehran. It said the convict was immediately sent to a hospital for treatment.

The Thursday report said Ali was detained in 2011 for allegedly stealing sheep, jewelry and motorbikes.

Amnesty International is outraged by reports that Iranian authorities have amputated the hand of a man convicted of theft. In a statement, Amnesty International said that such an “unspeakably cruel” punishment showed the Iranian authorities’ “complete disregard for human dignity.”

“Meting out such unspeakably cruel punishments is not justice and serves to highlight the Iranian authorities’ complete disregard for human dignity. There is no place for such brutality in a robust criminal justice system. Amputation is torture plain and simple, and administering torture is a crime under international law. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is legally obliged to forbid torture in all circumstances and without exception,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at the London-based rights group.

Iran’s judiciary uses a strict interpretation of Islamic law in handing down such sentences. The Iranian authorities have consistently defended amputation as the best way to deter theft, expressing regret that it cannot be practiced in public and on a widespread basis without international condemnation. In a shocking statement before the UN Human Rights Council in October 2010, Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of Iran’s Human Rights Council, denied that such punishments amount to torture, claiming they are “culturally and religiously justified”.

In reality, however, a domestic movement to abolish such cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments has long been underway in Iran and many Iranians, including several human rights defenders, clerics and religious scholars, have expressed their opposition and faced   in reprisal.

“It is appalling that the Iranian authorities continue to impose and carry out amputation sentences, and justify this legalized brutality in the name of religion, culture and crime prevention.  The Iranian authorities must urgently abolish all forms of corporal punishment and move towards a criminal justice system that is focused on rehabilitation and treats prisoners humanely,” said Mughrabi.

In 2017 alone, dozens of amputation sentences were imposed and subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court. In one case, in April 2017, judicial authorities in Shiraz, Fars province, amputated the hand of Hamid Moinee for robbery before executing him 10 days later for murder.

Before carrying out the amputation sentences, the authorities often arbitrarily imprison those convicted, even though no prison sentences are issued against them. Judicial authorities also continued to carry out punishments such as flogging and blinding.