Iran Council Passes Law Banning Totrure

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's hard-line ruling Guardian Council has passed a law banning the use of torture, effective immediately, a judiciary official said Sunday.

The council, which rejected at least three similar proposals in the past, approved the law's Thursday - one day after Iran's judiciary chief ordered it, said Nasser Hosseini, a judiciary official.

"For courts, it's obligatory to implement the law after it is approved by the Guardian Council," he said.

Human rights groups have long complained about the use of torture against detainees, including intellectuals and political activists.

In November, a special U.N. envoy visited Iran and said he received "many complaints" about human rights violations, including torture, from pro-reform dissidents, writers and activists.

Hard-line officials have denied the practice.

"I hope the law provides enough protection for prisoners who have complained about torture," reformist lawmaker Rajab Ali Mazroui said.

Iran's bleak human rights record was highlighted recently by the case of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in July about three weeks after being detained for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during anti-establishment protests.

The case prompted an international outcry and became part of a bitter power struggle between Iranian reformists and conservative elements of the Shiite Muslim-dominated country's establishment.