UN experts call for a moratorium on death penalty in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Date: 04 February 2011

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UN experts called on Iran to cease executions following a reported shocking spike in the number of people killed.

As Harm Reduction International documented in its report, ‘The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview 2010’, the number of people executed for drug-related offences has been on the rise since 2008. It is believed Iran has executed as many 10,000 people since the revolution of 1979.

In 2008, at least 96 people were executed for a drug-related offence (though it is widely believed that the number is actually higher). The following year, the estimated number of people executed for drugs rose to 172. According to preliminary figures for 2010, it appears that number stayed mostly steady.

Disturbingly, 2011 seems to be on pace to be the highest number in recent memory.

The announcement from the UN experts is below.

UN experts call for a moratorium on death penalty in the Islamic Republic of Iran

GENEVA (2 February 2011) – Two UN independent experts warned Tuesday that there has been a dramatic surge in death sentences in the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out in the absence of internationally recognized safeguards, despite numerous calls by the UN to immediately halt executions.

“We call on the Iranian Government to immediately declare a moratorium on the death penalty in view of the gravity of the situation and the regular disregard of due process guarantees,” urged the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul.

“Any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a Government’s international obligations is tantamount to an arbitrary execution,” Mr. Heyns stressed. The UN expert noted that in January alone, at least 66 people have reportedly been put to death -with some sources reporting up to 83 executions-, the majority of whom on charges of drug trafficking, moharebeh (enmity against God) and alleged membership in or contact with a banned opposition group. A large number of the executions of those charged with drug trafficking have reportedly taken place at Vakilabad prison.

“Such a practice is unacceptable,” Mr. Heyns said. “Under international law, the death penalty is regarded as an extreme form of punishment which, if it is used at all, should only be imposed for the most serious crimes, after a fair trial.”

Click here to read the press release.

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