A glance at the International Day in Support of...
The United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is held annually on 26 June to speak out against the crime of torture and to honor and support victims and survivors throughout the world.
Torture is a crime under international law. According to all relevant instruments, it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. On 12 December 1997, by resolution 52/149, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 26 June the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, with a view to the total eradication of torture and the effective functioning of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
On the occasion of this international day in the last month, we take a brief look at the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran towards the subject of torture and the Convention on Torture specifically.
At first it is necessary to note this important note that Iran’s non-joining this Convention does not in any way mean that it is opposed to the main subject and spirit of the Convention, but solely there are differences in the legal and conceptual views. The comparison of the articles of the Convention with the domestic law system, brings about the opportunity to while recognising these obstacles and differences, to also find solutions for their removal.
Torture is prohibited according to the Constitution and other laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Article 38 it is generally banned. But the legislator points out its use only to get confession and information, and does not refer to other instances where the accused is tortured to get a confession or information by an officer who is abusing his status and power. Although the action of the officer in the second situation is also a crime but in view of the point that in this situation the officer tortures the accused by the abuse of the backing of the governmental power, must in comparison with torture that is not done by abuse of power, harsher punishment be determined.
The Islamic Punishment Code too has considered punishments for perpetrators of torture. Also according to the Guidelines on Monitoring Screening of Movies too, the screening of movies or pictures that show acts of torture or violence is prohibited. Articles 22, 23, 36 and 39 of the Constitution too have fleetingly paid attention to the prohibition of torture.
The Islamic Criminal Law too, on the basis or respect to human dignity and status, condemns any form of torture and harassment carried out against people, and any form of unlawful torture and harassment of people is totally and unconditionally “haram”. It must be noted that in the event of accepting this notion, no justification for acts of torture can be acceptable, and the notion of prohibition on acts of torture in view of the repercussions which following exemption in acceptance will bring for this principle, torture is overall banned. *
From the legal and customary law views of the Islamic Republic of Iran, torture includes any unconventional act or any form of torture and intimidation to get a testimony or information and similar things and According to article 1.1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which is currently in force since June 26, 1987 "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions.
The first dispute that in the definition of these two legal systems is noted is that in the Convention both acts that are carried out against the accused before sentencing can be torture and also acts that are carried out after the verdict, which are parts of the punishment can also be examples of torture. Although under the article it has been noted that it does not include the pain and inherent damage of the punishments. But in the Iranian legal system in fact one can even be faced with the concept of torture before the issuing of the sentence process, not after issuing the sentence, and with the implementation of punishment.
Another dispute too goes back to article 16, where all the punishments that are degrading and violent have been banned. According to article 16, each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article I, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
Here too there comes a conceptual dispute which principally from the Iranian laws aspects, torture is not legal, but punishment is clear matter of the law. Furthermore it’s not clear which punishments are inhuman or merciless. What is certain is that no punishment is adopted to reverence of Mankind, and principally punishments are contrary to human values and dignity. But to differentiate which punishments are merciless and which are humane is a very tough debate. Whether, which punishments are violent or contrary to human dignity there is a huge difference in opinions, and a punishment that has pain with it solely cannot be seen as equal to torture.
It must be said that in view of the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran prohibits torture in its laws, and is party to other Conventions which also prohibit torture such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Apartheid Crimes etc. it shows that the country has no interest in accepting torture and the law punishes those commit these acts.
It seems that the main problem of the Convention from the Iranian laws aspects is within the conceptual faults that it finds in the Convention, and it does not have any conflicts with the spirit of Iranian and Islamic laws, and since on 23 July 2003 the Islamic Parliament drafted the joining of the Convention and since torture is banned in the Cairo Declaration with regards to human rights in Islam, it can be said that more serious steps must be taken for joining the Convention. Particularly when in some instances through reservation in some instances which are in conflict with domestic laws, not to implement those conflicting cases.
The aim of the Convention is the protection of all individuals who are tortured and victims of other cruel punishments and inhuman and degrading treatment, and also to safeguard the inherent dignity of Mankind for the provision of freedom, justice and peace in the world. With the adoption of this Convention it can be shown more than before that Iran is committed to human principles in the international order.
By: Negar Paidar
Human Rights Researcher
* Human Rights in Today’s World, Ayatollah Taleghani Cultural Complex, Collective of Articles of the Congress on the Review of the Fundamental Human Rights Issues in Today’s World, Enteshar Co. First edition, 2004
The views expressed in this article are the author's opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ODVV.