World Medical Association condemns barbaric punishment

The World Medical Association has promised to support any Iranian physician who refuses to take part in the amputation of prisoners’ fingers as a form of punishment.

In a strongly worded letter to the Iranian authorities, the WMA says it has been informed about a recent sentence of four men currently held in Urumieh prison in West Azerbaijan province, to “have four fingers on their right hands completely cut off so that only the palm of their hands and their thumbs are left”, as stipulated for certain types of robbery under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code.

Dr. Miguel Jorge, President of the WMA, writes: ‘We are profoundly alarmed by this ruling which purposely inflicts extreme pain, irreversible disability and obliterates human dignity.

Such abhorrent practices cannot possibly exist in a state governed by the rule of law.

Amputation constitutes a grave, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment that the WMA condemns strongly as a patent violation of international human rights law’.

He adds that under Iranian law, the implementation of corporal punishment, such as amputation, requires the presence of a physician for the assessment and enforcement of the ruling.

‘By doing so, physicians are required to participate in the enabling of the sentence and therefore in acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments.

This practice is in direct violation of the core ethical values of our profession and we condemn it unreservedly. It is our standards to encourage physicians to honour their commitment to serve humanity and to resist any pressure to act contrary to the ethical principles governing their dedication to this task.

We are therefore determined to fully support physicians who refuse to participate in those inhuman acts’.

Dr. Jorge concludes his letter by calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally stop ‘these appalling acts of cruelty’, and to comply with its international obligations, in particular the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights (which Iran ratified in 1975) prohibiting cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatments in all circumstances and without exception.