Draft Iranian law threatens gross human rights violations
22 February 2008 (BWNS)
The Iranian Parliament is considering legislation that would institutionalize a series of gross human rights violations, affecting not only Baha'is but many others, even outside of Iran, the Baha'i International Community said today.
Of greatest concern is a section that would mandate the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another religion, a provision that would affect not only Baha'is but also Christians, Jews, and others.
"This proposed law goes against all human rights norms and standards, including international treaties that Iran itself has agreed to," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.
"It is important for the international community to speak out, now, before it is too late and the draft code becomes Iran's law of the land."
The proposed law also would extend the government's reach over alleged security violations outside the country, give legal effect to discriminatory practices already in wide use against Baha'is and others, and redefine a series of "religious" and other crimes so vaguely as to place in jeopardy virtually any group facing government disapproval.
"If adopted, the code will permit the government and the clergy to act with impunity against Iran's citizens on the sole basis of their religious affiliation," said Ms. Dugal. "This is not only an affront to the people of Iran; it is an offense to all who seek to uphold fundamental human rights."
Ms. Dugal said the new section on religious conversion -- defined as apostasy -- is especially severe, in that its language mandates the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another religion and does not immediately recant.
"The text uses the word Hadd, meaning that it explicitly sets death as a fixed punishment that cannot be changed, reduced or annulled," said Ms. Dugal. "In the past, the death penalty has been handed down -- and also carried out -- in apostasy cases, but it has never before been set down in law.
"The law also extends to naming as apostate any follower of a religion other than Islam who had one parent who was a Muslim at the time of his or her conception. Thus, for instance, the child of a Muslim and a Christian who chooses to adopt the Christian faith would be considered an apostate under the terms of the law and therefore subject to execution," Ms. Dugal said.
Another troubling section of the proposed code would extend "security" laws outside the country, exposing those outside Iran to the government's reach.
"Iran is apparently not content with targeting those it considers its opponents only within its borders," said Ms. Dugal, explaining ....
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