Cutting the rope

Iran is the only country that executes via hanging in public: Piers Bannister


Cutting the rope
by Soheila Vahdati

On October 10th, 2007, the World Day against the Death Penalty will focus on the proposed UN General Assembly resolution for a universal moratorium on executions.* Amnesty International is one of the key members of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The Death Penalty Team at Amnesty International is extremely busy these days lobbying for the moratorium to pass. Fortunately, the team coordinator, Piers Bannister, managed to find the time to answer some of my questions about the death penalty.

Piers Bannister is a researcher on the death penalty for Amnesty International. He has campaigned against capital punishment for over 20 years, publishing numerous documents. He has also seen the reality of the death penalty, having visited death rows in Jamaica, Trinidad and the USA and interviewed exonerated death row prisoners, prison guards who have carried out executions, and the mothers and fathers of those executed.

Vahdati: What was the turning point in the history of humanity to abolish the death penalty? Where and how the movement to oppose the death penalty started? And what was the first country that abolished the death penalty?

Bannister: I don’t think there was one single turning point in the battle against the death penalty but opposition to executions has always existed and is recorded in Roman and ancient Greek societies. Throughout the ages the movement has picked up momentum and in recent decades it has become clear that the abolition of the death penalty is an idea whose time has come.

There are now 101 countries which have abolished the death penalty in law and a further 32 have abolished in practice (in that they have not executed for many years and have clear policies of not doing so).

The first region to abolish the death penalty was Tuscany, in Italy, in 1786. The first country was Venezuela in 1863.

On average, 2 to 3 countries have abolished the death penalty per year for the last three decades.

Opposition to the death penalty has now reached such a point that the UN General Assembly will vote on a moratorium on executions this coming November. Although the resolution will not be binding, if passed it will send a strong message that a consensus now exists in the international community that the death penalty is unacceptable.

Currently, only around 25 countries per year carry out executions. Large swathes of the world are free from state killing. In the Americas, only the USA currently executes. In Africa, only six of the 53 nations carried out executions in 2006. Belarus is the only European country that executes. The majority of the world’s executions are carried out in Asia and the Middle East.

Vahdati: As the coordinator of the AI Death Penalty Team, how do you evaluate the record of the Islamic Republic of Iran with respect to the death penalty? Is Iran the only country that executes people by hanging in public, and has the media broadcast images of executions? Is it the only country that still executes people for crimes they committed under the age of 18, or practices stoning?

Banister: The Iranian record on executions is a matter of grave concern to Amnesty International.

Currently, only China carries out more executions than Iran. Iran is the only country that executes via hanging in public. The majority of executions are carried out after grossly unfair trials that fail to meet the minimum international standards universally agreed under international law.

Public executions are extremely rare, with only Iran and Saudi Arabia currently carrying out such killings. It is also the only country that carries out executions via stoning, although Saudi Arabia and the Sudan also have laws that allow stoning, to Amnesty International’s knowledge, no executions have taken place by this method for many years.

Tragically, having been the only country for a number of years that carries out the execution of those under 18 years of age at the time of the crime, Iran has now been joined by Yemen and Saudi Arabia, who both carried out such executions this year in violation of international law and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Vahdati: What do you think it might take for a country like Iran to abolish the death penalty? How could Iranian individuals play an active role in this effect?

Banister: There are a few courageous campaigners who oppose the death penalty in Iran but the campaign to see capital punishment ended is hampered by the lack of freedom of speech in the country.

Since the death penalty is a government policy, it is hard for individuals to speak out. This lack of debate causes many people to be ignorant of the truth behind the death penalty, including its lack of value as a deterrent to violent crime or its imposition against those persons innocent of any crime who have been wrongly convicted, to name just two examples.

Vahdati: Thank you very much for your time.



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to E

by Tonya (not verified) on

It's kind of embarrassing when you actually see it in print like  I don't think anyone would disagree that the US just might be a tad bit hypocritical when it comes to capital punishment.  Which is not to say I agree or disagree... but I've been accused of double standards before myself (from a MAN, can you believe THAT?).  While not condoning it, it's an unavoidable fact that everyone does practice it, including and mostly likely a zillion times more, the government of ANY country.  Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you?  Na... I think it's more like "do unto others BEFORE they do unto you".  Ain't it a shame!  Don't get me wrong.  I love the USA and would protect it to the max.  That doesn't mean I have to agree with it all the time!


Institution of the Muslim

by Mehran (not verified) on

Institution of the Muslim apartheid state in Iran must be coming down by Iranians.



by Akbar_Gondeh (not verified) on

That is the way it should be. Otherwise, civilization is doomed.



by dariushagha (not verified) on



Marg bar taleban che Kabol che Tehran

by dude (not verified) on

This is more of the same. The real problem again is Islam, as it was created to tame the very savage arabic tribes of the desert. It is written in their language and for them. Islam is pure terror, and it's that simple. If they are doing this, nowadays, with all the technology, internet, satellites, TV and radio, can you possibly imagine what they did to our Persian ancestors? Islam, in it's pure way is the one practiced by Whabbis and taliban and also the shiits in Iran. Islam is a cancer that has infected many nations and specially Iran. Those religious people, that see this, have to justify it somehow, either by saying that those comiting the crimes are not interpreting Islam correctly, or simply by saying that that's theor profet law. Get this straight, Islam is the worst of all religions, is a lepracy, a sect of assasins, freedom killers, horney looters. If a muslim is good person (very few really are) is simply because he's trying to buy his/her paradise where virgins or male sex machines are available everywhere. Just look at the promises their book make to the: virgins, honey, apples, rivers, all the things the arabs liked and didn't have. Exterminate Islam, kill it, destroy it, it's worse than rats!!!!


Even animals do not do these

by Are you a human? (not verified) on

Even animals do not do these to each other. You hide your ideology behind the religion and do whatever it takes to justify your shameful acts. Shame on you, shame on your thoughts shame on whoever degrades the dignity of human beings.


U.S. pot calling the Iranian kettle black...

by E (not verified) on

In Europe we think that the fact that Americans (Iranian-, or otherwise) still condone capital punishment in any form is barbaric. Yet when the EU urged the governor of Texas last August to place a moratorium on the death penalty, the Americans responded in no uncertain terms:

"While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.”

To most Europeans, including European-Iranians, it seems risible that the US should make a claim to the moral high-ground on the basis of its own executions being held in private; all the more so when the US adopts a "mind your own business" attitude when dealing with criticism from the EU (where capital punishment is prohibited).

Recently the issue of capital punishment is raised more and more often in relation to Iran, forming part of the media build-up to war on Iran. So it is baffling to see Iranian-Americans jump on this self-flagellation bandwagon without considering the US's own practises (which include execution of juvenile offendors no less), and indeed those of other countries such as China. Don't misunderstand my opinion- I'm opposed to capital punishment (whether indoors or outside), I just believe that criticism and campaigning should be targeted with equal enthusiasm towards all parties.

But no need to worry about a media build-up to war- if Iran begins shipping a trade surplus of 27 billion dollars worth of shoddy toys and clothing to the US like the Chinese, or buys its silence with oil like the Saudis, then war might still be averted yet!


Human Rights, Islamic way

by Rahgozar (not verified) on

When there no shame, no little sense of humanity, what could be done, except watchingand somehow keep the distance from humanity.


IRI must be hanged.

by Watcher (not verified) on

Many of those who are hanged are political prisoners fighting for freedom. Once found guilty of their oppostion to IRI and sentenced to die, the courts quickly make additonal false civil charges against them, such as drug trafficking or sex offenses. Since they are already sentenced to die, the courts does not find it necessary to try them for the other false accusations, even if the prisoner requests it.
On the day of execution, the public is only aware of the false civil charges. The political charges are witheld from the public, except in a few cases where IRI wants to send a message to the opposition.
You see IRI does not want human rights organizations to have the correct numbers of political executions. But more importantly, they don't want any heroes and martyrs for the cause of freedom among Iranians, because historically martyrs have had a powerful influence in the hearts of Iranians.
So next time you see a picture of a hanged man or woman in Iran, don't just feel bad because someone was hanged. Don't say that he or she must have committed a crime of some sort. That's how the IRI wants you to feel.
Instead you should look closely at the picture. Look closely at the face. Look closely at the expression on the face. And then remember that there is a very likely chance that he was opposing IRI and fighting for freedom, and that he may have actually been one of our fallen heroes.


in harfa chieh ka mizanid

by morshedzadeh (not verified) on

in ghesas ast va bayasti ajra shavad. in hokme din ast shomaha az din bargashteh va kafar cha migooeid.
khoon barizi khonat rikhtah mishavad. dar tamame adian amadah. beravid va tobah bokonid va inchonin kofr nagoeid.

Kaveh Nouraee


by Kaveh Nouraee on

This is absolutely sickening.



I will be the first person to say that I am a supporter of capital punishment, when and only when the circumstances warrant them. The only circumstances I think that warrant them are murder, (especially that of a child) or the sexual molestation of a child.



But this artice should be proof enough that the IRI has to go.



by yes (not verified) on

Congratulations! Not just we're the only country on earth to go backwards instead of forward, but we're unique in other things:

-The highest rate of traffic and road deaths
-Wide practice of 'Sigheh'
-Arresting toy dogs
-Nose operations (male and female)
-Loving Karbala and US at the same time
-Importing more than 45% of gas (being the 3th lagest exporter of oil)
-Having the most good looking and pretigious president among moddle eastern countries
-Celebrating St.Valentin day (in an islamic republic)
-Saying mersi or tashakor for thanks, instead of using its persian equivalent, sepas (hey french sounds so 'chik')
-Being seyyed and aryan at the sime time


No religion

by me (not verified) on

Take religion out of people's life; everything will be excellent, no hate, no discrimination and no intolerance.


Shame on all of us for not

by Azadi (not verified) on

Shame on all of us for not doing anything to change this.


This is Islam at its best..................

by Q..... (not verified) on