Iran Lawmakers Consider Changing Harsh Anti-Drug Laws

By Victoria Kim 08/03/17

It would be the height of cruelty to execute someone today for a crime that would at worst get them a 30-year sentence when this law is amended.

woman walking by campaign posters of Iran parliamentary members

On July 16, Iran’s parliament approved a proposed amendment that would reduce the use of the death penalty for nonviolent drug crimes. Iran has one of the highest rates of capital punishment in the world.

According to human rights groups, almost 1,000 people were executed there in 2015, with 5,000 more on death row for drug crimes. A large number of the inmates ranged from 20 to 30 years old.

Iranian officials say that 70% of the people who are executed are sent to death because of drug-related offenses. And the majority of the people who were put on death row are from Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opium.

The proposal introduced December 2016 would amend Iran’s 1997 Law to Combat Drugs to limit the use of the death penalty for non-violent drug-related crimes. 

To become law, the proposal would have to be approved by parliament and ratified by the Guardian Council. The parliament will vote on the proposal in August.

On July 20, Human Rights Watch published a statement urging the Iranian government to “immediately halt all executions for drug-related offenses” while parliament mulls over the proposal.

“It makes no sense for Iran’s judiciary to execute people now under a drug law that will likely bar such executions as early as next month,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW. “It would be the height of cruelty to execute someone today for a crime that would at worst get them a 30-year sentence when this law is amended.”

Under Iran’s current drug laws, “at least 10 offenses, including some that are non-violent, are punishable by death, including possession of as little as 30 grams of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine,” reads the statement by HRW. “The law also mandates the death penalty for trafficking, possession, or trade of more than five kilograms of opium or 30 grams of heroin; repeated offenses involving smaller amounts; or the manufacture of more than 50 grams of synthetic drugs.” 

The HRW has also logged serious human rights violations of due process and torture, among others, of drug suspects.

“Parliament should resist any pressure to curb reforms to the drug law and move forward with a bill that better protects the right to life,” said Whitson. “This would be the first step in addressing the epidemic of executions in Iran and a move toward abolishing the death penalty.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr