Date: 16 June 2011
THREE MOTHERS SENTENCED TO DEATH IN IRAN
Iran has one of the highest rates of drug addiction in the world; in May 2011 the Head of the Law Enforcement Force Esma’il
Ahmadi-Moghaddam said that there were probably more than 2 million users of illegal drugs in the country. It is also second only
to China in the number of executions carried out each year. In 2010, 170 of the 253 executions acknowledged by the
authorities were of individuals convicted of drugs offences. The executions of over 200 other convicted drugs offenders were not
acknowledged by the authorities, or were carried out secretly. So far in 2011, over 120 of the 183 executions acknowledged by
the authorities and recorded by Amnesty International have been of convicted drugs offenders. Well over 100 others are reported
by unofficial sources to have been executed for drugs offences across the country, mainly in Vakilabad Prison, Mashhad.
In October 2010, the Interior Minister stated that the campaign against drug trafficking was being intensified, and the
Prosecutor-General stated in the same month that new measures had been taken to speed up the judicial processing of drug-
trafficking cases, including by referring all such cases to his office. In December 2010, amendments to the Anti-Narcotics Law
extended the scope of the death penalty to include additional categories of illegal drugs (for example, methamphetamine -
“crystal meth”), possession of more than specified amounts of which carry a mandatory death sentence. The UN Human Rights
Committee has stated that “the automatic and mandatory imposition of the death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of
life, in violation of Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in circumstances where the
death penalty is imposed without any possibility of taking into account the defendant's personal circumstances or the
circumstances of the particular offence”.
The Iranian authorities do not provide statistics on the numbers of executions carried out annually, nor information concerning
those held on death row, although the number is almost certainly in the thousands. UN bodies have repeatedly called upon
member states to make publicly available information on the use of the death penalty. In a 1989 resolution, the UN Economic
and Social Council urged member states to publish comprehensive information about the death penalty, including death
sentences, executions, and those held on death row, as well as on reversals, commutations and pardons.
Article 6 (2) of the ICCPR, to which Iran is a state party, states that “sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious
crimes”. UN human rights mechanisms - including the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions
and the UN Human Rights Committee - have concluded that the death penalty for drug offences fails to meet the condition of
"most serious crime". The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime have
likewise expressed grave concerns about the application of the death penalty for drug offences.
Under Article 5(5) of the Law Establishing General and Revolutionary Courts, all drugs offences are tried by Revolutionary Courts,
which are presided over by a single judge, even though Article 20 of the Law Establishing General and Revolutionary Courts
states that offences carrying the penalty of death should be tried in a Provincial Criminal Court, which has five judges. The UN
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has recommended that Revolutionary Courts be abolished.
Under the Anti-Narcotics Law, which was passed by the Expediency Council, a body which does not have legislative powers under
the Constitution and was created by the former Leader to resolve disputes between Iran’s parliament and Council of Guardians
which vets legislation for conformity to the Constitution and Islamic law, there are 13 offences which are punishable by death.
Under Article 32 of this law, those sentenced to death for drugs offences do not have the right to appeal, as their convictions and
sentences are merely confirmed by either the President of the Supreme Court or the Prosecutor-General. In practice, it seems
that many such death sentences are referred to the Prosecutor-General. This contravenes Article 19 of the Law on Appeals,
which states that all death sentences are open to appeal, as well as Article 14 (5) of the ICCPR which states that “[e]veryone
convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law”.
UA: 186/11 Index: MDE 13/059/2011 Issue Date: 16 June 2011