Iran is notorious for its liberal use of capital punishment, particularly for offenses that are considered minor in countries which have a higher regard for human rights. In recent years – under the “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani – Iran has stepped up its use of the death penalty, including against underage offenders, LGBTQs, women, and more. But most often, Iran makes headlines due to its use of the death penalty against drug offenders in particular (most famously, wiping out an entire village earlier this year) – no small irony, considering that Iran uses (and launders) drug profits to fund and arm its terror proxies in the Middle East and elsewhere. The use of the death penalty for drug offenses is on its own a violation of international accords, as they do not stand to the requirement of “most serious crimes”, which legitimize the death penalty.
Over a year ago, we noted that Iran’s “war on drugs” is more of an attempt by the Islamic republic to control what may be the worst drug problem in the world by cruelly and ineffectively taking recourse to capital punishment.
Now, a senior official in the Iranian judiciary has admitted – shortly before the execution of 17 people over narcotics-related offenses, after hundreds were similarly executed in 2015 – that Iran’s attempts to solve its drug problem in this manner have been futile, revealing that the death penalty has failed to deter drug trafficking in the country thus far. On the contrary, he said – the drug trade and the number of Iranians involved in it has only grown. He went on to suggest that the death penalty for such offenses be re-evaluated and even scrapped.
The official’s comments, which first appeared on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)-linked Tasnim News Agency website, were carried by Reuters in English and picked up by several other Western news outlets. The pressure against Iran seems to be mounting, with UN Special Rapporteur for human rights Ahmad Shaheed and several European states – and major news outlets along with them – calling already for years for Iran to abolish the death penalty for offenses not deemed “most serious crimes,” and to halt the executions of those already sentenced. Hopefully, even more media outlets will now take up that call.