Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Compare and Contrast

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments about the constitutionality of lethal injection to carry out death sentences. Lawyers for the prisoners claimed the method inflicts an "unnecessary risk of pain" in violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on "cruel and unusual punishments."

In Iran -- a theocracy governed by Sharia law -- pain in punishment isn't unusual. Just ask five convicted criminals recently penalized by amputation:
The amputation sentences were carried out in Zahedan, the capital of Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province. The five men were found guilty of armed robbery, hostage taking, and firing at police, though officially they were convicted of "acting against God" and "corruption upon this Earth."

Amputation as a punishment is legal in Iran, but there have been no reports of it being used for several years. It is unknown if the meting out of such a punishment now is a new trend or if this was an isolated incident in only one region of the country.

With doctors watching, the convicted men's right hands and left feet were amputated. Traditionally, the right hand is amputated for a first serious offense and the left foot for a second serious offense. The right hand-left foot amputation is referred to as "cross amputation."

The Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported the amputations on January 6, though it is not clear when the sentences were carried out or if the amputations were done in prison or in public.
The amputations aren't an isolated event--according to AFP, "The amputations come amid a campaign the authorities say is aimed at improving security in society which has led to an increasing number of executions in the Islamic republic, many of them in public." And the State Department's March 2007 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Iran recounted:
The penal code provides for the stoning, or lapidation, of women and men convicted of adultery. In 2002 the head of the judiciary announced a moratorium on stoning but reportedly ended the moratorium in August. Prior to August there were reports of judges handing down the sentence. On May 7, according to AI a woman, Mahboubeh Mohammadi, and a man, Abbas Hajizadeh, were stoned to death in the northeastern city of Mashhad. A court convicted the pair of adultery and the murder of Mohammadi's husband.

In June 2005 a court sentenced a man to have his eyes surgically removed. According to human rights specialists, such sentences were rarely implemented; rather they were used as leverage to set "blood money." Nonetheless, in November 2005, domestic press reported prison authorities amputated the left foot of a convicted armed robber.
Also this week, as part of a campaign to enforce public order, the Tehran Police commander warned that "units of policewomen have been set up to handle 'immorality in Tehran's beauty salons.'" Meaning no makeup on that stump.

(via Little Green Footballs)


SR said...

This is a non-issue. A leathal injection combo is actually an anesthesic overdose. No self-respecting physician can actively become involved in an execution, but even a first year pharmacy student could figure out that infusing the anesthesic to the point of unconsciousness and apnea (loss of breathing) would prevent any fear or pain from the ensuing paralytic and heart stoppage.

Carl said...


I think so too, but it seems at least four Justices disagree (that being the number needed to agree to hear a case).