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Human rights groups urge UN to cease anti-drug trafficking funding until Iranian authorities renounce use of death penalty for drug-related offences

9 Oct 12
Human rights groups urge UN to cease anti-drug trafficking funding until Iranian authorities renounce use of death penalty for drug-related offences

Iran Human Rights, October 10: On the World Day against the Death Penalty, Iran Human Rights (IHR) together with four other NGOs dedicated to human rights issues inside Iran and the cessation of the death penalty have called for a moratorium on international funding to Iran’s anti-drug trafficking programs until such time the Islamic Republic renounces its policy of execution for those convicted of drug-related offenses. The full text of the letter calling for the moratorium can be read below or downloaded here. The Farsi version of the letter can be read here.

pdf">PDF - 120.8 kbAccording to reports from human rights groups that document executions in Iran from both official and unofficial sources, roughly 650 executions were carried out in 2010 and 676 in 2011. So far, in 2012, at least 330 individuals have been executed. Of these executions, it is estimated that more than 70% are of individuals sentenced to death under the Islamic Republic’s Anti-Narcotics Law, which mandates the death penalty for a wide range of drug-related offenses. The letter—which is jointly signed by Justice for Iran, Iran Human Rights, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, Arseh Sevom and Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)—addresses its concerns to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and country donors including Norway, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Ireland and Japan which provide funding to the Islamic Republic’s anti-drug trafficking programs. Shadi Sadr, Executive Director of London-based Justice for Iran, says “Our research shows how thousands of people, including women who are the single-income providers for their children, have been sentenced to death without minimum standards of due process whilst Iranian judges and other authorities that bear responsibility in these severe violations of human rights enjoy absolute impunity.” Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesperson for Iran Human Rights—a Norwegian-based group that focuses on documenting executions in Iran—maintains that “the fact that Iranian authorities execute several hundred people every year on drug-related charges, and then proudly announce these executions, shows that the nature of international collaboration in combating the trafficking of illegal drugs through Iran may be sending the wrong signals to the Iranian authorities. Any aid provided to Iran to fight drug trafficking must be contingent on whether the Iranian authorities are willing to abolish the death penalty for drug-related charges.” Gissou Nia, Executive Director of the US-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, further notes that “though largely cosmetic, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s recent amendments to its Islamic Penal Code that purport to abolish stoning for adultery and juvenile executions demonstrate that the IRI does care about international perceptions of its execution laws. In contrast, the IRI has only made mandatory execution laws for drug-related offenses even harsher in recent years. The international community must send a strong message, not only through words but through a cut-off of funding to Iran’s anti-drug trafficking programs, that the high numbers of executions in Iran is unacceptable.” While human rights groups have raised concerns to the Iranian government about the mandatory death sentencing for drug-related offenses, the Iranian authorities have failed to respond to this criticism in any meaningful fashion. The letter calls on UNODC and donor countries to stop funding the Islamic Republic’s anti-drug trafficking programs until the Islamic Republic ceases its application of the death penalty to those convicted of drug-related offenses. Letter: To: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Governments of Norway, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Ireland & Japan Cc: Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran United Nations Human Rights Council European Union We, the undersigned organizations, strongly oppose the continuing use of the death penalty in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We are concerned that the Islamic Republic’s radical policies, which allegedly aim to eradicate drug-trafficking and result in the execution of several hundred prisoners every year, are supported in part by international funding. Of the countries that continue to apply the death penalty in their domestic jurisdictions, the Islamic Republic leads in number of executions per capita. Many of these executions are conducted in secret and go unreported by official sources. According to reports from human rights groups that document executions in Iran from both official and unofficial sources, roughly 650 executions were carried out in 2010 and 670 in 2011. At the time of the publication of this statement, at least 329 individuals have been executed in 2012. Of these executions, it is estimated that more than 70% are for drug-related offenses. Pursuant to Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a State Party, countries that have not abolished the death penalty may only sentence someone to death for the “most serious crimes”. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the ICCPR by its State parties, has found on numerous occasions that drug-related offenses do not meet the criterion of “most serious crimes.” Nonetheless, Iranian authorities have been unabashed in their application of the death penalty to individuals convicted of drug-related offenses. In June 2011, Mahmoud Zoghi, the prosecutor of Mashhad, said: “Considering the number of cases we have had, these many hangings are proportionally adequate. Foreign media is exaggerating the issue for no reason.” The Islamic Republic’s Anti-Narcotics Law mandates the death penalty in cases of possession or trafficking of more than a specified amount of various drugs. The range of offenses punishable by death was broadened with a series of amendments to the Anti-Narcotics Law that came into force in January 2011. The amended law mandates the death penalty for a wider range of illegal drugs—including the possession or trafficking of more than 30 grams of methamphetamine. According to reports from human rights groups, many of those executed are arrested on spurious charges of alleged drug trafficking, are interrogated without a lawyer present, have confessions extracted under torture admitted as evidence against them in court, are convicted without legal counsel or the ability to review the evidence against them and sentenced to death without a right of appeal. Too often, the targets of these sweeping anti-drug laws are the most vulnerable members of Iranian society. Poor and marginalized groups, including ethnic minorities and foreign nationals who have been historically discriminated against by the Iranian government, are targeted by the Islamic Republic’s drug laws, as are single mothers who, with no other means to support their children, engage in drug trafficking to feed their children. In addition to the cruel and inhumane treatment of those sentenced to death under these anti-drug laws, the imposition of the mandatory death penalty for these offenses has a deleterious effect on Iranian society as a whole. Executions carried out at large public gatherings, often with young children in attendance, have the effect of normalizing the use of the death penalty and state-sanctioned violence in Iranian society. Also, while Iranian officials maintain that execution of drug traffickers is effective in combating the abuse and sale of drugs, there is no clear evidence to support this. Many of those executed are not at the top of the drug sale chain and drug use in Iran is on the rise. Recent statistics on opiate abuse place Iran second in the world in the percentage of the population using opiates, exceeded only by Afghanistan. The rate of addiction to high-potency heroin is also on the rise, especially among the youth. While human rights groups have raised concerns to the Iranian government about the mandatory death sentencing for drug-related offenses, the Iranian authorities have failed to respond to this criticism in any meaningful fashion. At the same time, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and country donors including Norway, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Ireland and Japan provide funding to the Islamic Republic for its anti-drug trafficking programs. While we appreciate that country donors are trying to stop the flow of drugs into Europe and North America, the efforts of these Western governments should not result in human rights abuses in Iran and similarly situated countries. With no reason to believe it will be penalized by an international community that in fact funds these efforts, the Islamic Republic has continued its ongoing campaign of executing individuals for drug-related offenses with virtual impunity. Efforts by human rights defenders and others to request information through official channels about the nature of UNODC’s support to the Islamic Republic have been met with vague or otherwise unresponsive answers. In light of the reasons enumerated above, we, the undersigned, set forth the following demands to the international community, including UNODC, states that donate or have donated in the past to UNODC, or other international government organizations engaged in anti-drug trafficking initiatives with the Islamic Republic: -  Immediately halt the provision of any monetary funds, services or other resources to the Iranian authorities for anti-drug trafficking purposes until such time the Iranian government renounces its policy of executing individuals for drug-related offenses. -  Demand that until the Iranian government renounces the policy of execution for drug-related offenses, funds only be used for treatment and other anti-drug initiatives unrelated to law enforcement. -  Impose strict transparency guidelines on any funding intended for treatment and other anti-drug initiatives unrelated to law enforcement, with strict guidelines on amounts and a detailed reporting of its specific use. Signed on this 10th day of October 2012 (International Day against the Death Penalty) by: Arseh Sevom Iran Human Rights Iran Human Rights Documentation Center Justice for Iran Together against the Death Penalty/ Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)