Iran Criticised for Imposing the Death Penalty for Drugs

Date: 19 October 2011

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Iran faced heavy criticism for its capital drug laws and its ‘widespread application’ of the death penalty for narcotics offences.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council this week in which he wrote:

‘[T]he Special Rapporteur is troubled by reports of the widespread application of the death penalty for crimes that do not meet the international standard for most serious crimes. According to various sources, including Amnesty International, a majority of those executed in 2010 had been convicted of drug-related offences. The Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions have stated that drug offences do not constitute a “most serious crime” for which the death penalty is permissible under international law (see A/HRC/4/20, para. 51). Capital punishment was also applied to cases regarding Mohareb or “enmity against God”, rape, murder, immoral acts or acts against chastity and kidnapping. More than 200 officially announced executions have taken place in 2011. At least 83 persons, including 3 political prisoners, are known to have been executed in January 2011 alone. It was also noted that 4 per cent of the executions announced by the official Iranian media stipulated no charges. At least one person has been sentenced for apostasy in 2011, and more than 100 officially announced executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2011 were reportedly for drug-related crimes.

‘Furthermore, authorities reportedly conducted more than 300 secret executions at Vakilabad prison in 2010. Vakilabad officials, in violation of Iranian law, allegedly carried out the executions without the knowledge or presence of the inmates’ lawyers or families and without prior notification to those executed. It has also been reported that at least 146 secret executions have taken place to date in 2011.’

Iran faced similar criticism at the Human Rights Committee this week. According to an account by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:

‘Christine Chanet, a Committee member from France, denounced mass executions for drug-related crimes, saying such crimes did not warrant the death penalty under international law. “It is not up to states to define what are the most serious crimes,” she said, stressing that certain sexual conduct and apostasy are capital crimes in Iran. She complained that the delegation had ignored questions about the execution of minors and about which crimes carried death sentences. Deputy of the Iran’s Human Rights High Council, Khosro Hakeeme, admitted “70% of executions in Iran are for narcotics violations” but ignored concerns that people could be executed for their sexual conduct or religious belief.’

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