By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
TEHRAN, Iran – As protests continue throughout the country, the international community has ratcheted up pressure on Iran due to its excessive use of the death penalty to punish crimes. This comes after ten people were hanged Wednesday for trafficking narcotics. Statements from Amnesty International and United Nations representatives condemned the executions, noting that international law reserves the use of the death penalty for only the most serious crimes. Iran’s death penalty policy has received much scrutiny over the years but the government has yet to succumb to demands to reform the policy. According to Amnesty International, Iran executed 388 people in 2009 alone and is second only to China in the total number of individuals put to death.
Recent unrest and uprisings in the country have led the government to crack down on opposition groups. UN rights chief Navi Pillay reported that a wave of arrests of protesters and critics has occurred since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt over a month ago. Supporters of the government have called for the execution of opposition leaders and anti-regime demonstrators.
Some argue that these latest executions are being used as a political tool to frighten and deter the citizenry from protesting. Drewery Dkye of Amnesty International contends that “[t]he Iranian authorities have used the implementation of the death penalty…to convey a message to opponents of the regime to get in line.” The government denounced critics of its policy noting that it was necessary “to maintain law and order and is applied only after exhaustive judicial proceedings.” One report finds that 89 individuals have been executed since the beginning of the year.
Now Sweden and the United States are seeking to appoint a special investigator to look into human rights violations committed by Iran. Iranian activists have applauded this move and have expressed their hope that the United Nations Human Rights Council embraces the proposal. In addition to drug related crimes, the death penalty is considered a proper punishment in Iran for rape, armed theft and adultery. While the proposal has received wide support, analysts predict that the resolution will fail under opposition from Russia and China who generally disfavor international quarries into other nation’s affairs.
For more information please see:
Reuters – U.S. and Sweden to Push U.N. Rights Body to Act on Iran – Mar. 4, 2011
Payvand Iran News – Iran Executions Under Scrutiny – Mar. 3, 2011
Agence France Presse – Iran Hangs 10 Drug Traffickers – Mar. 2, 2011
Agenzia Giornalistica Italia – Iran: 10 Drug Dealers Hanged – Mar. 2, 2011