The scheduled execution of a 36-year-old man convicted on drug offences tomorrow, Saturday 9 April, demonstrates the Iranian authorities’ utter disregard for the right to life and their determination to continue with a staggering execution spree that saw nearly 1000 people put to death last year, said Amnesty International.
Family members of Rashid Kouhi received a call from prison authorities yesterday informing them that they should go to Rasht’s Lakan Prison in Gilan Province, Northern Iran, to have a final meeting with him today before his execution tomorrow.
“The imminent execution of Rashid Kouhi days after Iran was revealed to be the world’s second highest executioner in 2015 in Amnesty International’s annual death penalty report, highlights the authorities’ determination to maintain their horrifying rate of executions,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.
“The Iranian authorities must halt the execution of Rashid Kouhi immediately. The use of the death penalty for drug-related offences is a blatant violation of international human rights law. Instead of stepping up their rampant execution spree the Iranian authorities must take steps to abolish this ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment.”
At least 977 people were executed in Iran in 2015 – the vast majority of which were for drug-related offences. These offences do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes”, interpreted by international human rights bodies, as crimes involving international killing, for which the death penalty is permitted under international human rights law.
Rashid Kouhi was arrested at a checkpoint in Roudbar, Gilan province on 24 August 2011. The officers who stopped him conducted a search of his bag where they found 800 grams of crystal meth. He was a student at the time. He was tried and sentenced to death following a grossly unfair trial by a Revolutionary Court in Roudbar in February 2012.
The court’s verdict, which has been reviewed by Amnesty International, is less than a page long and does not contain adequate reasoning. He did not have access to a lawyer during questioning and met a state appointed lawyer for the first time during his trial. He was held in Roudbar for two years before being taken to Lakan Prison in Rasht.
Rashid Kouhi was denied the right to appeal his death sentence. This was because under Article 32 of the Anti-Narcotics Law, all death sentences passed for drug related offences were subject to confirmation either by the Head of the Supreme Court or the Prosecutor General, who were entitled to revise or quash the sentence if they found it contravened Islamic law or that the judge was not competent.
However, a new Code of Criminal Procedure entered into force in June 2015, revoking this article and restoring the right to appeal for individuals sentenced to death for drug-related offences. Despite this, Amnesty International understands that Rashid Kouhi has not received adequate legal assistance in order to submit an Application for Retrial (E’ade dadresi) to Iran’s Supreme Court on this basis. Rashid Kouhi requests for clemency have been rejected.
“It is appalling that Rashid Kouhi has been denied the right to an appeal which is a fundamental element of the right to a fair trial. The Iranian authorities must urgently halt his execution and give him a chance to appeal his death sentence in a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty. Failing to do so will be an irreversible injustice,” said Said Boumedouha.
The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that a death sentence passed after an unfair proceeding violates both the right to life and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Iran’s Anti-Narcotics Law stipulates mandatory death sentences for a range of drug-related offences, including trafficking more than 5kg of narcotics derived from opium or more than 30g of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their chemical derivatives.