Iran to End Death Penalty For Many Drug Offenses

January 10, 2018 – The Iranian judiciary on Tuesday amended the country’s drug trafficking law, which if implemented, could save the lives of about 4,000 of the some 5,000 inmates on death row in the Islamic Republic.

The order to suspend death sentences for drug-related crimes pending sentence reviews—issued by Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani —requires judges to rescind death sentences that do not meet the new conditions set by parliament for the death penalty, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

The amended law allows for sentence of the death penalty in cases of armed drug-trafficking, using children to traffic drugs, previous death sentences, life sentences and sentences of 15 years or more, as well as playing a leading role in a drugs organization and possession of certain quantities of drugs, including 50 kilos of opium, two kilos of heroin and three kilos of amphetamines, according CHRI.

UN Officials have in recent years urged those countries that continue to execute their own citizens to limit it to people convicted of murder or intentional killing following a fair and transparent process.

The UN General Assembly has since 2007 annually passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The resolution, spearheaded by EU countries, particularly France and Italy, is supported by some 100 countries while about 40 countries consistently vote against it.

The text of the General Assembly resolution on establishing a moratorium also calls on states that retain the use of executions to limit the number of offenses for which the death penalty can be applied.

In addition to Iran, at least seven states, including Saudi Arabia as well as Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and China impose the death penalty for drug trafficking.

But it’s not just drug crimes that are punishable by death in some countries. Apostasy is considered a capital crime in both Saudi Arabia and Iran. In Yemen, there are some 360 crimes punishable by death including adultery and prostitution. In Morocco, there are more than 325 while in Egypt there are more than 40, and death sentences have increased there since the 2011 protests that led to the fall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Confidence is high that over time the death penalty will be abolished universally.

When the UN was founded only eight countries had taken the death penalty out of their laws while the figure is now 99, and only five states now execute more than 25 people per year – China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States.

UN officials have yet to comment on the amended law but The Center for Human Rights in Iran warned that the “the ultimate decision lies with Iranian judges, which have historically yielded to pressure by hardline security agencies in issuing sentences regardless of the law.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz