UN: Iran Executions Hit Two-Decade High

March 11, 2016
Iran executed nearly 1,000 prisoners in 2015, according to a new report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed. Some 65 percent of the executions were for drug-related offenses. The New York Times reported that Iran has reportedly not executed so many people in one year since 1989, when more than 1,500 were executed, according to Amnesty International reports. “A large percentage of those executions are for drug offences and under Iran's current drug laws, possession of 30 grams of heroine or cocaine would qualify for the death penalty. So there's a number of draconian laws,” Shaheed told reporters on March 10.
 
At least four of the people executed last year were under 18 years of age, and at least 160 other juveniles are on currently on death row. Hundreds of journalists, activists and bloggers were also imprisoned.
 
Shaheed noted that Iran has recently amended problematic elements of the Islamic Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. But he also emphasized that aspects of other laws and practices “continue to undermine or violate Iran’s national and international human rights obligations.” But Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, said that the report’s contents were biased and politically motivated. The following are excerpts from the report.
 
The Islamic Penal Code
 
A revised version of the penal code was implemented in early 2013 for an experimental period of 5 years. If properly implemented, the amended provisions will remedy some of the problems raised with the Iranian government by the human rights mechanisms including concerns raised by member states during the Government’s 2010 and 2014 UPRs. The Special Rapporteur notes, however, that many other provisions violate the Islamic Republic of Iran’s international obligations and the code continues to facilitate serious abuses perpetrated by Iranian officials. …
 
The Special Rapporteur also notes that vague and broadly defined hudud provisions in the penal code, loosely defined as “crimes against God,” often criminalise acts that are either not recognised as crimes under international laws and standards or not considered serious enough to warrant capital punishment. These include crimes such as insulting or cursing the Prophet (sabb al-nabi), consensual heterosexual or same-sex relations between adults, corruption on earth (efsad-e-fel-arz) and apostasy.” Individuals convicted of some of these crimes are not generally allowed to seek a pardon or have their sentences commuted, in contravention of international law.
 
Hudud punishments include amputations, as well as flogging and stoning.16 Rights groups have documented at least three amputations in 2015. …
 
The Criminal Procedure Code
 
Parliament adopted a number of amendments to the new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), which came into effect on 22 June 2015.30 The amended code was much celebrated and praised by government officials for the level of protection it affords to those suspected of crimes. …
 
Despite these improvements, concern remains over CPC provisions that exempt individuals accused of national security crimes from these protections. This includes COC revisions by the Guardian Council, which now require individuals accused of national security, capital, political or press crimes, and those accused of offences that incur life sentences, to select their counsel from an official pool of lawyers chosen by the Head of the Judiciary during the investigative phase of the trial. …
 
The Anti-Narcotics Law
 
Iran's anti-narcotics law, adopted by the Expedience Council in 1997 and amended in 2010, mandates the death penalty for a range of drug crimes including nonviolent drug related offences that do not amount to “most serious” crimes under international law. The law lists drug crimes punishable by death. The minimum threshold for capital punishment sentencing is the possession, in any form, of 30 grams or more of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their chemically derived substances. The death penalty can also be applied for a range of other crimes such as, armed drug smuggling, smuggling in prisons or government run facilities, or hiring individuals with the intent of violating the anti-narcotics laws. These policies have resulted in over 500 executions in 2015 alone, accounting for 65 percent of the total amount of individuals executed in the country. The Government alleges that it has not received any communications from international bodies “concerning nonobservance of norms of law in relation to drug-related offences” that resulted in the death penalty. The Government also asserts that “severe punishments meted out to large[-scale] drug traffickers have brought about considerable reduction in the harm resulting from the flow of drugs to Iran and beyond.” …
 
In December 2015, 70 members of Parliament presented a bill that, if approved by the legislature and the Guardian Council, would reduce the punishment for non-violent drug related crimes from death to life imprisonment. On 11 January 2016, the bill was introduced on the main floor of the parliament for review.46 While reserving judgement on the particulars of the bill, the Special Rapporteur welcomes attempts to reduce the staggering number of executions in the country and appreciates the government’s willingness to reevaluate existing law with consideration for human rights obligations.
 
Civil and Political Rights
 
The right to life
 
Human rights organisations tracking executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran estimate that between 966-1,054 executions have taken place in 2015, the highest rate in over 10 years. Execution rates reached especially alarming rates from April 2015-June 2015, resulting in an average of 4 executions per day during that time period.
 
As in previous years, the majority of the executions in 2015 - approximately 65 percent - were for drug-related offences. Twenty-two percent of the remaining executions carried out in 2015 were for qesas related crimes (homicide), 6% were for rape, 3% were for murder, and 4% were for other crimes including financial corruption. In its response, the Government asserts that an “excessive concentration on the claims concerning [an] increase in executions… reduces the credibility of the report, and noted that drug-related executions account for 80 percent of all executions in the country.
 
Freedom of expression, opinion, and access to information
 
The Islamic Republic of Iran received 11 UPR recommendations related to freedom of expression in 2014 of which Iran accepted two and partially accepted 4 recommendations, including to “take the necessary steps to ensure and that it citizens fully enjoy the rights and freedoms awarded to by the Iranian constitution with special emphasis on the right to freedom of expression, the right to political activity and their right to assemble” and to “strengthen and promote freedom of expression, particularly that of the press.” …
 
On 19 January 2016, the Special Rapporteur welcomed the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian who had been unlawfully detained by security and intelligence forces since July 2014, and encourages authorities to “pave the way for the release of all remaining detainees unlawfully held in the country’s prisons.” As of January 2016 at least 47 journalists and Internet users were reportedly imprisoned in the country. At least six prominent artists, writers and musicians have been arbitrarily detained or prosecuted since October 2015. Iran ranks among the seventh most censored country in the world. Iran also ranked 173rd out of 180 countries on the World Press freedom index. …
 
The Special Rapporteur regrets what appears to be a widening crackdown on freedom of expression and opinion during the reporting period, punctuated by a series of arrests carried out by the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards and harsh sentences against journalists, cyberactivists and artists. President Rouhani has reportedly criticised the string of arrests against individuals likened to an “infiltration network,” and noted the apparent connection between allegations made in ultra-conservative news outlets, and arrests that follow. …
 
Freedom of Association and the right to free and fair elections
 
On 15 February 2016, the Guardian Council approved 52 percent of the 12,123 candidates that registered to run for the parliamentary election. Previous to that, on 20 January 2016, the Supervisory Board of the Guardian Council qualified 49 percent of the 12,123 candidates that registered to run for the parliamentary election. According to reports only 30, or 1 percent, of some 3000 “reformists” candidates that registered for the election were approved by the body during the 20 January decision. Some of those rejected appealed to the Guardian Council and were approved on 15 February 2016. In its response, the Government notes that the Guardian Council’s supervision of the elections “is not beyond the law,” and that its activities are “in full compliance” of international law.
 
The Guardian Council invited 540 of the candidates, including the 6 female hopefuls, to sit for an examination to determine whether they were qualified to run for the Assembly of Experts. On 26 January 2016, the Guardian Council disqualified 640 of the 801 candidates registered for the Assembly of Experts, including 6 women that registered for the election. To date no woman has ever been approved by the Guardian Council to serve on the Assembly of Experts. …
 
The Special Rapporteur expresses serious concern that former presidential candidates and reformists, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard, will have spent five full years under house arrest in the absence of charges or a trail as of 14 February 2016. …
 
Women’s Rights
 
According to Article 18 of Iran’s passport law, married women require their husband’s, or in an emergency situation, the local prosecutor’s, permission to apply for a passport. On 22 September 2015, local media reported that Ms. Niloufar Ardalan, captain of the Iranian national women’s soccer team, was prohibited from traveling abroad to compete in the Asian Football Federation Women’s Futsal Championship held in Malaysia, allegedly as a result of her husband’s refusal to provide her with his consent to leave the country. …
 
Ethnic and Religious Minority Rights
 
The Special Rapporteur expresses serious concern at the continuing systematic discrimination, harassment, and targeting that adherents of the Baha'i faith continue to face in the country. In January 2016, a revolutionary court in Golestan province reportedly sentenced 24 Baha'is to a total of 193 years in prison in connection with the peaceful exercise of their faith. …
 
The Special Rapporteur also expresses his concern at the treatment of Iranian Christians from Muslim backgrounds, who continue to face arbitrary arrest, harassment and detention despite the fact that article 12 of the Iranian constitution recognises and protects adherents of the Christian faith. …
 

Click here for the full report.