Friday, December 16, 2011

Iran: Regime of Terror Executes 600 This Year

Perhaps ''drug offences'' are the new ''gay.'' Drugs being a somewhat less contentious issue globally, than stringing children up for the crime of being gay.

The Stalin dictum, ''no man, no problem'' or just plain old medieval finger pointing, stand accused and you are toast? Which or whatever it is, it's a very effective way of silencing dissenters.

Medieval perhaps, it is afterall, a medieval country.

Rights group says Iran executed nearly 500 people for drug offenses this year
December 15th, 2011

Amnesty International on Thursday said that nearly 500 people have been executed so far this year for alleged drug offenses in Iran. It is a sharp increase from the number of executions in previous years.

The London-based rights group said in a new report that at least 488 people have been executed for alleged drug offenses so far in 2011, a nearly threefold increase from the 2009 figures, when at least 166 executions took place for similar offenses. In total, the organization recorded some 600 executions reported by both official and unofficial sources this year, with drug offenses accounting for about 81 percent of the total.

"To try to contain their immense drug problem, the Iranian authorities have carried out a killing spree of staggering proportions, when there is no evidence that execution prevents drug smuggling any more effectively than imprisonment," said Amnesty International's Interim Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Ann Harrison.

"Drug offences go much of the way to accounting for the steep rise in executions we have seen in the last 18 months. Ultimately Iran must abolish the death penalty for all crimes, but stopping the practice of executing drug offenders, which violates international law, would as a first step cut the overall number significantly," Harrison added.

The Iranian authorities officially acknowledged 253 executions in 2010, of which 172 were for drug offenses - almost 68 percent of the total. However, Amnesty International received credible reports of a further 300 executions, the vast majority believed to be for drug-related offenses.

Amnesty said that members of marginalized groups, particularly Afghans, are most at risk of execution for drugs offenses. There are as many as 4,000 Afghan nationals on death row for drugs offenses, the organization estimated.

Iran has the fourth highest rate of drug-related deaths in the world, at 91 per 1 million people aged 15-64, and is a major international transit route for drug smuggling. In recent years, Iran has received international assistance, including from several European countries and the United Nations, to help stem the flow of drugs across its borders.

The UN has praised Iran's counter-narcotics work, but it has failed to mention the increasing application of the death penalty for drugs offenses. "All countries and international organizations helping the Iranian authorities arrest more people for alleged drugs offences need to take a long hard look at the potential impact of that assistance and what they could do to stop this surge of executions," said Ann Harrison.

"They cannot simply look the other way while hundreds of impoverished people are killed each year without fair trials, many only learning their fates a few hours before their deaths," she added.

Late last month, Iranian state-run media acknowledged that eleven people who were previously convicted of drug trafficking were hanged in southern Iran. Dozens of people were executed across the country in September alone, including 22 convicted drug traffickers who were all hanged on the same day in the Tehran suburb of Karaj.

But the most controversial execution took place on September 21 when 17-year-old Alireza Molla Soltani was executed after stabbing a popular athlete to death in mid-July. The teenager argued he stabbed the athlete in self-defense but a court still ordered he be executed in breach of international law which forbids executing anyone below the age of 18.

According to human rights groups, trials in Iran do often not meet international standards of fairness. Proceedings, particularly those held outside Tehran, are often summary, lasting only a few minutes. Mass trials also take place on some occasions.

In October 2010, Iran's Interior Minister stated that the campaign against drug trafficking was being intensified and the Prosecutor General stated in the same month that new measures had been taken to speed up the judicial processing of drug trafficking cases, including by referring all such cases to his office, thereby denying them a right to appeal to a higher tribunal as is required under international law.

Two months later, the amended Anti-Narcotics Law came into force, apparently making it easier to sentence to death those convicted of drug trafficking, according to Amnesty International. The law also extended the scope of the death penalty to include additional categories of illegal drugs such as crystal meth, possession of which became punishable by death.

Family members of executed persons also faced persecution in some cases last year and were often not given the bodies of their relatives for burial. Others said that they had to pay officials in order to receive their relatives' bodies as payment for the rope used to hang them. BNO NEWS

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