Iran aims to keep stoning as punishment for adultery, rights group says

File: A woman demonstrates against stoning and execution on August 13, 2010 outside Berlin's landmark the Brandenburg Gate.

Story highlights

  • A judicial panel has reinserted a stoning provision into a draft law, Human Rights Watch says
  • The group says Iranian authorities are holding at least 10 people who face stoning
  • The U.S. State Department cites unconfirmed reports of bodies of four women apparently stoned
  • Officials in Iran have denied the reports

Stoning remains the way Iranians -- overwhelmingly women -- are punished for committing adultery, Human Rights Watch said Monday. The international group blasted a judicial council in Iraq, made up of 12 religious jurists, for inserting a stoning provision into a draft law where it had been previously removed.

Last November, security agents with the country's judiciary moved the bodies of four women who had been stoned to the Tehran medical examiner's office, according to reports on the Melli-Mazhabi site, which opposed Iran's government, the U.S. State Department says. CNN cannot confirm the reports.

According to the State Department's report, the unconfirmed accounts say the women's bodies had facial wounds that indicated torture, beatings and stoning.

Officials denied the reports but did not provide alternative explanations for the causes of death, according to the State Department report, adding that the women were allegedly charged with engaging in "illegitimate relationships" and drug use.

There are no statistics that indicate the number of stoning victims, but human rights groups say Iranian authorities are holding at least 10 women and men who face execution by stoning on adultery charges, Human Rights Watch says.

At least 70 people have been executed by stoning in Iran since 1980, the rights group said, and the last known execution by stoning was in 2009.

Iran's semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported on April 27, 2013, that the judicial group known as the Guardian Council had finished reviewing and amending the draft law and that the law would be implemented soon.

    OPINION: Iran stonings are a legal nightmare

    Dec 2010: Woman convicted of adultery, murder appears on Iranian TV

    Nov 2010: Woman sentenced to death by stoning could be spared