LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Stoning, a form of execution where a group throws stones at a person until they are dead, still happens in parts of the Muslim world, mostly as a punishment for adultery. Most victims are women. Stoning, which is not mentioned in the Koran, violates international law. Below is a list of countries where stoning is legal and/or practised.
AFGHANISTAN: Stoning became an official punishment for certain crimes such as adultery during the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule. It was abolished after their overthrow, but is still practised in areas controlled by the Taliban, warlords and tribal leaders. Last year, a 21-year-old woman, Najiba, was stoned in front of more than 100 cheering men after being accused of “moral crimes” by local warlords in Parwan province. In 2011, a mother and daughter were stoned in Ghazni city. In 2010, the Taliban stoned a couple in Kunduz. Some stonings have been filmed. Campaigners say the Taliban, insurgents and warlords are misusing religion to create terror and spread their influence.
INDONESIA: In 2009, the conservative province of Aceh passed a law stipulating that adulterers be stoned to death. But the governor refused to sign it, so it has no legal force. No stonings have been carried out. It has been reported that the Aceh government will remove the stoning provision but activists remain worried given the level of public support for stoning.
IRAN: Stoning is a legal punishment in Iran, which has the world’s highest rate of execution by stoning. Men are customarily buried up to their waists and women up to their chests. Since proving adultery is very difficult, the law allows a judge to act on gut feeling rather than testimonies or confessions. In 2010, the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, caused international outcry. The authorities have suspended her sentence but she remains in prison. Officials withdrew stoning from a new draft penal code last year, but have since reinserted it.
IRAQ: Stoning is not legally sanctioned but extrajudicial stonings appear to be increasing. In 2008, a 16-year-old girl, Kurdistan Aziz, was stoned to death in Iraqi Kurdistan. After eloping to marry a man her family disapproved of, she asked the police for help. They referred her to the department in charge of ending domestic violence, which, instead of protecting her, returned her to her family. Her relatives stoned her to death saying her actions had brought shame on them. The authorities refused to intervene in what they called a “tribal issue”. In April 2007, Du’a Khalil Aswad, a teenager from the Yazidi religious minority, was stoned to death for her alleged involvement with a Sunni Muslim boy. The stoning was filmed and the video reportedly shows that security forces were present but failed to intervene.
MALAYSIA: Two states, Kelantan and Terengganu, approved bills in 1993 and 2002 to bring Islamic criminal laws – including stoning as a punishment for adultery – into their legal systems. But opposition by the federal government means these laws cannot be applied. No one has been sentenced to stoning.
MALI: An al Qaeda-linked Islamic militant group in northern Mali, Ansar Dine, said last year it had stoned a married couple accused of engaging in extramarital affairs. The couple were executed in Aguelhok, near the border with Algeria, a spokesman for the group said. Islamist extremists applied their interpretation of sharia law after taking control of two-thirds of Mali's desert north.
MAURITANIA: Stoning is legal for “acts against nature” between men and for adultery by a married woman or man. Sharia law became the basis for Mauritania’s penal code in 1983, but there have been no reports of any stonings.
NIGERIA: Stoning is a punishment for adultery in Nigeria’s 12 northern states, which adopted sharia penal codes between 1999 and 2001. At least six people have been sentenced to stoning. But every case has been won on appeal. In a case that received international attention in 2002, divorcee Amina Lawal was convicted of adultery on the basis of a pregnancy, even though the alleged father swore he did not have a relationship with her and was acquitted. Lawal won her appeal in 2003 and there have been no adultery prosecutions since, but the stoning law remains in force.
PAKISTAN: Stonings have been legal since harsh interpretations of Islamic law were incorporated into criminal law in 1979. Although no stoning has ever been carried out within the legal system, extrajudicial stonings happen in some tribal areas. In July, a mother of two was stoned by her relatives on the orders of a tribal court for having a mobile phone. Earlier this year, a soldier was stoned on the orders of a tribal court in the northwest Kurram region for an alleged affair with a local girl. In 2008, militants stoned a couple in the northwest Khwezai-Baezai region after a tribal court found them guilty of adultery. A group connected to the Taliban had captured the couple.
QATAR: Stoning is legal, although it is believed no stonings have occurred.
SAUDI ARABIA: Adultery, which is considered an offence against God, is illegal and punishable by stoning. There are no accounts of stonings in the past decade, but there have been reports of courts sentencing people to be stoned. In 2010, a Filipino worker was sentenced to stoning over an extramarital affair. The ambassador persuaded the judge to reconsider his decision. In 2009 two Sri Lankans were sentenced to stoning for adultery. The sentences were reduced to 700 lashes and six years in prison.
SOMALIA: Stonings happen more regularly in Somalia than many other Muslim-majority countries, primarily in areas under the control of Islamist groups like al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam. In the most notorious case, a 13-year-old girl, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, was partially buried and stoned to death by 50 men in front of 1000 people at a stadium in Kismayu in 2008. Amnesty International reported that she had been raped by three men but was accused of adultery when she tried to report the rape to al Shabaab militants in control of the city. None of the men was arrested. Homosexual relationships are also punishable by stoning.
SUDAN: Stoning is a legal form of punishment for adultery under the 1991 penal code. Two young women, Laila Ibrahim Issa Jamool and Intisar Sharif Abdallah, were sentenced to stoning for alleged adultery in separate cases last year. Both convictions were based on confessions and both women lacked legal representation, according to reports. Human Rights Watch said Abdallah appeared to be under 18 and only confessed after she was beaten by a family member. Both women had given birth not long before and were held in jail with their babies and with their legs shackled. They have since been freed on appeal. HRW says judges have sentenced several women to stoning in recent years, but courts have overturned the sentences on appeal. Most stoning sentences have been imposed on women.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Adultery is punishable by stoning under the penal code enacted in 1987. Courts rarely issue stoning sentences but it has happened occasionally. In 2007, the courts upheld a stoning sentence of a man convicted of having sex with his four stepdaughters. It’s not known whether the sentence was carried out. The girls were sentenced to 80 lashes each even though they had been forced into the relationships. In 2005, a Bangladeshi man was sentenced to stoning for adultery. An Indonesian woman was similarly sentenced in 2000 even though she told the court she had been raped. Both sentences were later reduced to one year and deportation.
YEMEN: Stoning is the prescribed punishment for adultery and for homosexuality by married men under the penal code enacted in 1994. Although no known stonings have taken place, it is still a legitimate punishment. Reports suggest impoverished women are the most likely to be sentenced to stoning.
Sources: Women Living Under Muslim Laws, HRW, Amnesty International
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