No stoning for adultery, says Afghan president Karzai after outcry
Leak of draft law that proposed the measure had prompted an international outcry
Afghanistan's government has backed away from a proposal to reintroduce public stoning as a punishment for adultery after the leak of a draft law stirred up a storm of international condemnation.
The president, Hamid Karzai, said in an interview that the grim penalty, which became a symbol of Taliban brutality when the group were in power, would not be coming back.
"It is not correct. The minister of justice has rejected it," he told Radio Free Europe, days after British minister Justine Greening urged him to prevent the penalty becoming law.
Afghanistan's penal code dates back over three decades. The government is drawing up a new one to unify fragmented rules and cover crimes missed out when the last version was written, such as money laundering, and offences that did not even exist at the time, such as internet crimes.
The justice minister presiding over the reform is an outspoken conservative who last year denounced the country's handful of shelters for battered women as brothels.
As part of the process, a committee tasked with looking at sharia law came up with draft legislation that would have condemned married adulterers to the slow and gruesome death; unmarried people who had sex would be flogged.
But after several days of silence in the face of a growing outcry, the justice ministry said in a statement that although stoning had been proposed it would not appear in the new legislation because there was "no need to regulate the issue".
The country's penal code already encompasses sharia law, but some controversial aspects of traditional punishments such as stoning have never been put on the books in Afghanistan.
"The legality of the crime and punishment is fully addressed and there is no need to regulate the issue in the new code. So, the ministry of justice does not intend to regulate it in the new draft code," the statement said.
Rights groups who first highlighted the draft law warned that although the government's quashing of the proposal was good news, its emergence in the first place was a sign of how fragile gains in human rights over the last decade had been, particularly for women.
Although stoning is listed as a punishment for adulterers of both sexes, in countries where it has been used in recent years women have often appeared on the execution ground alone.