Amnesty International (AI) has called for the “total abolishment of death penalty for drug-related offenses”, while labeling Iranian parliament’s recent bill on the subject as “disappointing”.
On July 16, parliament approved generalities of a motion to scrap capital punishment for those who are convicted of petty drug offenses.
Out of 246 MPs present at the session, 182 voted for and 36 voted against the motion while 6 abstained.
Based on the current law, whoever is convicted for manufacturing, distributing, importing or selling more than five kilograms (176 OZ) of hemp, hashish, opium, or more than thirty grams (a little bit more than one ounce) of heroin, cocaine, morphine and their chemical derivatives will face death the penalty.
Nevertheless, according to the spokesman of parliament’s Judicial and Legal Commission, Hassan Norouzi, “Under the new law, if passed, only those who are convicted for manufacturing and distributing more than fifty kilograms of traditional addictive drugs and/or two kilograms of industrial addictive drugs will be executed”.
The revised and detailed version of the bill, if approved, will save thousands of prisoners already on the death row inside Iran’s prisons.
However, Amnesty International and its collaborator, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, have urged the Iranian parliament to seize the historic opportunity to reject the death penalty for drug-related offenses:
“Iranian lawmakers must not miss a historic opportunity to reject the use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses and save the lives of thousands of people across the country.”
“Instead of abolishing the death penalty for drug-related offenses, the Iranian authorities are preparing to adopt a deeply disappointing piece of legislation, which will continue to fuel Iran’s execution machine and help maintain its position as one of the world’s top executioners,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
According to Iranian MPs, there are currently an estimated 5,000 people on death row for drug-related offenses across the country. About 90% of them are first-time offenders aged between 20 and 30 years old.
Defending earlier versions of the bill, which were more lenient, Mughrabi accused members of Judicial and Legal Commission of relenting to security agencies and watering down the bill.
“Though this law, if implemented properly, may contribute to a drop in the number of executions, it will still condemn scores of people every year to the gallows for offenses that must never attract the death penalty under international law,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.
“The human toll of Iran’s heavy-handed approach to drug control has been devastating” the statement insists, adding, “The vast majority of the hundreds of executions carried out in Iran each year are for drug-related convictions”.
The statement also reiterates, “Most of those executed come from the poorest and most vulnerable members of society including Afghans and ethnic and religious minorities. A high-ranking official recently stated that since 1988 Iran has put to death a staggering 10,000 people for drug-related offenses”.
According to Iranian MPs, there are currently an estimated 5,000 people on death row for such offenses across the country. About 90% of them are first-time offenders aged between 20 and 30 years old.
AI and its partner are calling on Iran’s parliament to urgently amend the proposed legislation to bring it into line with Iran’s obligations under international human rights law, which absolutely prohibits use of the death penalty for non-lethal crimes.
However, many judicial authorities and conservative allies of the Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are against applying limits on the death penalty, maintaining that it would weaken Iran’s resolve in its campaign against the country’s growing drug crisis, Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reported on July 7.
The latest opposition came from the head of the prosecutor’s office in Khorasan Razavi Province, Ali Mozaffari, who accused parliament of trying to appease Western governments that have criticized Iran’s high rate of executions, CHRI added.
The amended bill, if finally approved in parliament, needs the Guardian Council’s ratification to become a binding law.