Saturday, February 23, 2008


NEW YORK, 22 February 2008 (BWNS)

The Iranian Parliament is considering legislation that would institutionalize a series of gross human rights violations, affecting not only Baha'is but many others, even outside of Iran, the Baha'i International Community said today.

Of greatest concern is a section that would mandate the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another religion, a provision that would affect not only Baha'is but also Christians, Jews, and others.

"This proposed law goes against all human rights norms and standards, including international treaties that Iran itself has agreed to," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

"It is important for the international community to speak out, now, before it is too late and the draft code becomes Iran's law of the land.

"The proposed law also would extend the government's reach over alleged security violations outside the country, give legal effect to discriminatory practices already in wide use against Baha'is and others, and redefine a series of "religious" and other crimes so vaguely as to place in jeopardy virtually any group facing government disapproval.

"If adopted, the code will permit the government and the clergy to act with impunity against Iran's citizens on the sole basis of their religious affiliation," said Ms. Dugal. "This is not only an affront to the people of Iran; it is an offense to all who seek to uphold fundamental human rights.

"Ms. Dugal said the new section on religious conversion -- defined as apostasy -- is especially severe, in that its language mandates the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another religion and does not immediately recant.

"The text uses the word Hadd, meaning that it explicitly sets death as a fixed punishment that cannot be changed, reduced or annulled," said Ms. Dugal. "In the past, the death penalty has been handed down -- and also carried out -- in apostasy cases, but it has never before been set down in law.

"The law also extends to naming as apostate any follower of a religion other than Islam who had one parent who was a Muslim at the time of his or her conception. Thus, for instance, the child of a Muslim and a Christian who chooses to adopt the Christian faith would be considered an apostate under the terms of the law and therefore subject to execution," Ms. Dugal said.

Another troubling section of the proposed code would extend "security" laws outside the country, exposing those outside Iran to the government's reach.

"Iran is apparently not content with targeting those it considers its opponents only within its borders," said Ms. Dugal, explaining that Article 112 of the proposed code refers to actions "against the government, the independence and the internal and external security of the country.

"Since the notion of 'security' is not defined in the law, any action can be qualified as such," Ms. Dugal said. "Indeed, many Iranian Baha'is have been falsely accused of activities against the security of the state.

"If the new penal code is adopted, Iranian Baha'is -- and others -- all over the world would likewise be liable for actions taken outside Iran that are considered contrary to Iran's security.

"The code's vagueness with respect to "offending the sacred" and other crimes would give the government free license to act against any group it disapproves of, said Ms. Dugal. "The code includes articles that refer to the commission of unspecified crimes or felonies, as well as articles referring to those guilty of 'corruption and mischief on the earth,'" she said.

"It would also institute capital punishment for anyone who 'insults the Prophet,"

" Ms. Dugal explained. "Such provisions place many groups, including Baha'is, in an extremely vulnerable position, since an 'insult' to the Prophet can be defined in almost any context, especially where religious belief is concerned.

"In related developments, the president of the European Union recently expressed "serious concern" over the "deteriorating situation" of the Baha'i community in Iran.

"The EU expresses its serious concern at the worsening situation of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, in particular to the plight of the Baha'i," said Dr. Dimitrij Rupel of Slovenia, the president of the EU.

"The EU is concerned about the ongoing systematic discrimination and harassment of Baha'is in Iran, including the expulsion of university and high school students, restrictions on employment and anti-Baha'i propaganda campaigns in the Iranian media."

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The following are excepts from the draft penal code currently under discussion by the Iranian Parliament, concerning "apostasy" and related crimes.

Islamic Republic of Iran

Proposed Bill for Islamic Penal Law (Penal Code)

Section Five: Apostasy, Heresy, and Witchcraft

Article 225-1: Any Muslim who clearly announces that he/she has left Islam and declares blasphemy is an Apostate.

Article 225-2: Serious and earnest intention is the condition for certainty in apostasy. Therefore, if the accused claims that his/her statement had been made with reluctance or ignorance, or in error, or while drunk, or through a slip of the tongue or without understanding the meaning of the words, or repeating words of others; or his/her real intentions had been something else, he/she is not considered an apostate and his/her claim could be heard and justified.

Article 225-3: There are two kinds of apostates: innate (Fetri) and parental1 (Melli).

Article 225-4: Innate Apostate is someone whose parent (at least one) was a Muslim at the time of conception, and who declares him/herself a Muslim after the age of maturity, and leaves Islam afterwards.

Article 225-5: Parental Apostate is one whose parents (both) had been non-Muslims at the time of conception, and who has become a Muslim after the age of maturity, and later leaves Islam and returns to blasphemy.

Article 225-6: If someone has at least one Muslim parent at the time of conception but after the age of maturity, without pretending to be a Muslim, chooses blasphemy is considered a Parental Apostate.

Article 225-7: Punishment2 for an Innate Apostate is death.
1 The word (Melli) in this case means ‘of parents’.
2 The word used here (Hadd) means limits but according to the definition given at the beginning of the document, Hadd in Islamic penal law applies to fixed penalties – their nature, limit, and condition, set in the religious laws, could not be changed, reduced or annulled. Crimes punishable by Hadd are adultery, pimping, false sexual accusations, defamation of the Prophet, apostasy and heresy and witchcraft, drinking, burglary, and spread of corruption and aggression on earth. It should be noted that in all these cases one of the conditions for accountability of the accused is his/her knowledge of the gravity of the crime in the Islamic law.

Article 225-8: Punishment for a Parental Apostate is death, but after the final sentencing for three days he/she would be guided to the right path and encouraged to recant his/her belief and if he/she refused, the death penalty would be carried out.

Article 225-9: In the case of a Parental Apostate, whenever there appears to be a possibility of recanting, sufficient time would be provided.

Article 225-10: Punishment for women, whether Innate or Parental, is life imprisonment and during the sentence, under the guidance of the court, hardship will be exercised on her, and she will be guided to the right path and encouraged to recant, and if she recants she will be freed immediately.
Note: The condition of hardship will be determined according to the religious laws.

Article 225-11: Whoever claims to be a Prophet is sentenced to death, and any Muslim who invents a heresy in the religion and creates a sect based on that which is contrary to the obligations and necessities of Islam, is considered an apostate.

Article 225-12: Any Muslim who deals with witchcraft and promotes it as a profession or sect in the community is sentenced to death.

Article 225-13: Assistance to the crimes in this chapter, in case there is no other punishment assigned to it by law, is punishable by up to 74 lashes in proportion with the crime and the criminal.

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