Few days pass without the Iranian media publishing news about arrests, trials and executions related to drug trafficking. The announcement that 10 people were executed on Monday, October 22nd 2012, was the latest news of this kind.
Reporting from the Mehr news agency and based on case files, the website Melli-Mazhabi (National-Religious) stated that drugs such as opium and crystal meth were discovered on at least two of these people.
The Islamic Republic accused seven people Farshid Rostami, Farhad Mashhadi Abolghasem, Ali Darvishi, Abbas Abbasi Namaki, Saeed Sadighi, Hamid Rabi’i and Mohammad Ali Rabi’i of possessing one ton of crystal. According to this report, the judiciary claims that these people distributed the drugs in Tehran.
The other people who were executed are Alireza Moulaei, Eshagh Lorgi and Yousef Parmar. They had been convicted of hiding one ton of drugs in two containers and entering Iran through a southern port. They were accused of transporting the drugs to Tehran and other cities in Tehran province. That is when they were identified and arrested.
In an announcement the Tehran prosecutor stated, “Some of these convicts had a supply of billions of Tumans in banks, earned by selling drugs, and had founded numerous companies to cover up their criminal activities.”
The other side of the drug victim’s coin
In reality, drugs affect the Iranian youth and population in two ways. On the one hand, it is the drug abusers who put themselves and their families in poor conditions. The World Health Organization considers the use of drugs as one of the basic international problems which threaten human life socially, economically, culturally and politically. In recent years, drug consumption in Iran has increased rapidly and there has been a change from “soft” drugs to drugs produced in laboratories.
On the other hand, the drug-related victims who are the subject of this report, are the victims of the reactions of authorities and system of punishment. These reactions are not compatible with human rights standards. Based on Iranian law, drug related crimes are punishable by death. In this case, the rulings of the judges are based on the “Anti-Drugs Act” passed by the Expediency Discernment Council in 1988 and amended in 1997. According to article 2 of this act, a person convicted four times for growing opium poppies will be sentenced to death. Also articles 4 and 8 state that the punishment for the production, distribution, importation and exportation of more than five kilograms of drugs such as opium is death. The amount of hard drugs, such as heroin, that is subject to the death penalty is 30 grams. Article 32 of this act also stresses that death penalties approved by the head of the Supreme Court or the attorney general, are final and must be carried out.
The main instrument used by Iranian authorities to control drug use is the execution of drug producers and distributors. The effectiveness of these policies has been questioned by sociologists and other critics. Drug use in Iran has increased and is yet another sign that these policies are ineffective.
Human rights violations in the prosecution of drug related cases
The right to life is one of the basic rights stressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Therefore, human rights activists protest the execution of drug-related convicts. In many instances, the prosecution process in these cases is objected to by human rights activists. Saeed Sadighi is one of the ten people recently executed in Iran for drug related convictions. In an interview with the website Melli Mazhabi (2) his brother reported that Sadighi had been tortured while imprisoned.
“During the first visit in prison my mother noticed that he had been tortured. His teeth were broken and he had a black eye. When my mother asked him what is going to happen, he responded that it was all a mistake and he would be home the same day or the next…My brother had nothing to do with drugs, the people who worked with him had hidden drugs in faucet taps and my brother didn’t know anything about it.”
He further stated that Sadighi and many other people charged with drug related crimes do not have attorneys. Specifically in regards to his brother’s case while a public defender had been assigned to him, the attorney did not have any access to the case. Attorney Mohammad Sharifi and Saeed Sadighi’s public defender stated that they had only managed to see Sadighi 15 minutes before the court hearing and requested the court to declare the investigations incomplete.
Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that all people are equal before the law. Article 10 states that every defendant has the right to have his case fairly and publicly tried in an independent and impartial court. Lastly according to to article 11, every person who is charged with a crime is considered innocent until the crime has been legally proven in an open court.
The same points have been stressed by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic. Article 35 of the Constitution guarantees the right to legal defense by attorneys for defendants in court. Article 38 bans the use of torture to force a confession and considers the testimonies or confessions obtained by torture as having no legal value. Article 39 of the Constitution further bans insulting or hurting the image of a person who has been detained, imprisoned or exiled by law.
The families of the ten people who were recently executed appealed the sentences as they believed the judicial process had violated the law. According to HRANA, (3) these families gathered in front of the Supreme Leader’s residence after their last visit with their imprisoned family members and requested for the halt of the execution and a just retrial. However, Rooz Online website (4) reported that these family members were attacked by security forces, beaten up and pushed away with batons. Finally the executions were carried out despite the objections of human rights organizations.
After the executions, in a statement the Human Rights Activists in Iran announced that these executions were carried out illegally as torture was used in order to obtain confessions and the lack of due process during their trials.
The highest rate of per capita execution in the world
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Ahmad Shaheed described the execution of ten Iranian citizens in one day as shocking and stated, “The execution of a lot of people in Iran has become a normal thing.” (5) According to Agence France-Presse, Shaheed criticized the Iranian government for ignoring its international and domestic commitments and said that more than 300 executions have been documented in Iran in the first eight months of this year and he added that since information in Iran has been limited this past year the number will be “much larger.” Shaheed reported that there were 670 reported executions in Iran in 2011. Based on the statistics, more than 80 percent of these people had been sentenced to death for drug related crimes.
The average number of executions in Iran was more than two a day. This places the state in second place in the number of executions after China, and Iran has the highest per capita rate of executions in the world. The increase in the number of executions in Iran during the past few years has been condemned by many other countries and human rights organizations.
The Islamic Republic has tried to hide the high number of executions from international organizations. Political and human rights activists have made great efforts and paid heavy prices to reveal these numbers. One of those people is Ahmad Ghabel, a former political prisoner in Vakilabad prison in Mashhad. In a series of interviews after his release, Ghabel described the secret executions that were occurring in the prison. After these interviews, government forces, angry for exposing hasty secret group executions in Vakilabad prison and the international protests concerning it, arrested Ahmad Ghabel again. It was during his second detention that his illness intensified and he was granted a furlough which came too late. Ahmad Ghabel passed away in prison after a long period of illness.
The final word
Executions are continuing in Iran, and every now and then, the news of these executions reaches the international or domestic media. The main policy of the Iranian government in the war against drugs is the execution of the drug producers and distributors. In many cases, there is no due or just process in the prosecution people, meaning the right to life is violated very easily. The Human Rights Activists in Iran and other international organizations have protested about this issue time and time again, but their criticism has not resulted to an end of this process. It seems like these actions must go on until the Iranian government starts to act according to its international and domestic commitments.