Iran’s top human rights official has come under fire for defending his country’s use of stoning adulterers and others designated as criminals under Islamic law, claiming it is a “lesser punishment” than execution because it allows people a chance to survive. Mohammad-Javad Larijani, a senior envoy and chief of Iran’s Human Rights Council, rejected international condemnations of the practice which has included censure by the U.N., and he described stoning as a controlled legal procedure. “Stoning means you should do a number of acts, by throwing the stone in a limited number, in a special way.…In the eyes of some people, stoning is a lesser punishment than execution because there is a chance you should survive,” Larijani said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published today. Iran has been under international pressure over stonings since the sentencing of Sakineh Ashtiani, 43, for a 2006 adultery charge.
“Stoning exists in Iran and is part of the legal code,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the international Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Stoning is clearly a form of murder and torture. International law forbids the use of torture and stoning.” “Larijani is giving the ruling class’ interpretation of Sharia law,” said Ghaemi. “Many other religious leaders disagree.”