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News (Media Awareness Project) - IRAN: Don't Praise Iran's War On Drugs
Title:IRAN: Don't Praise Iran's War On Drugs
Published On:2011-08-05
Source:Guardian, The (UK)
Fetched On:2011-08-06 06:01:13

Riding Roughshod Over the Rule of Law and the Right to Life May Be
Effective, but Iran's Killing Spree Violates International Law

The Iranian regime won high praise last month from Yuri Fedotov,
executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Iran had "one
of the world's strongest counter-narcotics responses", he said, and
its good practices "deserve the acknowledgement of the international

His remarks came a little more than two weeks after Iran's state media
announced that 13 drug traffickers had been executed in Mashhad's
Vakilabad prison since 21 March. In May, the judiciary announced that
at least 300 more were on death row for drug-related offences.

So far this year, official Iranian sources have reported more than 100
of these executions. Iranian and international human rights groups
fear the numbers are much higher.

If retributive justice is the sole hallmark of a "strong"
anti-narcotics response, Fedotov's words are spot on. Last year,
Iranian authorities signalled plans to intensify prosecutions for drug
crimes. They amended the anti-narcotics law, which already imposed
corporal punishment for less serious drug crimes and the death penalty
for trafficking, possession or trade of more than 5kg of opium, 30g of
heroin or morphine (and repeated offences involving smaller amounts)
or the manufacture of more than 50g of synthetic drugs such as
methamphetamines a capital offence.

Last October, prosecutor general Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei announced
that his office would review some drug-related cases in the interests
of fast-tracking them through the courts. That meant some death
sentences for drug-related crimes were no longer subject to appeal in
the supreme court.

These draconian measures, many of which violate fundamental rights
under international law, initiated a staggering wave of executions.
Human Rights Watch believes that many of those executed may have had
unfair trials, with little or no legal representation. There is also
credible evidence that the authorities executed groups of convicted
drug offenders without notifying their families or lawyers.

It is against this reality that Fedotov hailed Iran's anti-drug
campaign, and called on the international community to "follow suit".

To be sure, Iran plays a critical and strategic role in the
international "war on drugs". The UN anti-drug agency says that Iran,
which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and is located along major drug
smuggling routes, intercepts more illegal opium and heroin/morphine
drug shipments than any other country - 89% of the opium shipments
seized worldwide and 41% of heroin/morphine shipments.

The human cost of Iran's war on drugs has been extremely high. Over
the past 30 years, 3,700 police officers have been killed and tens of
thousands injured in anti-narcotics operations, according to the UN
agency. With 1.2 million drug-dependent users, Iran also has one of
the world's most severe addiction problems, the agency says. Its
figures show that drug addiction and HIV rates have soared in recent
years, with injecting drug users accounting for almost 70% of the
country's 22,000 detected HIV cases.

In praising Iran's "strong" anti-narcotics response, Fedotov focused
on Iran's seemingly effective supply-and-demand reduction programmes,
including innovative treatment and rehabilitation measures for more
than 150,000 people in communities and prisons.

Yet he said nothing, publicly at least, about the other human tragedy
that is unfolding - the dozens of prisoners Iran has hanged and
unceremoniously buried following flawed trials, or the hundreds of
others who await a similar fate. The silence is especially puzzling
since the UN agency opposes the death penalty for drug-related offences.

Under article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, which Iran has ratified, the death penalty may be
applied only to the "most serious crimes". The UN Human Rights
Committee has said that drug offences do not constitute "most serious
crimes", and that use of the death penalty for drug offences violates
international law. Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in
all circumstances and has specifically stated its opposition to the
death penalty for drug crimes.

In March, as Iran was ramping up its executions, the UN drug agency
adopted a multilateral technical co-operation programme "to support
national efforts on drugs and crime by promoting United Nations
standards and international best practices". The European commission,
European Union member states and several other governments including
Japan, Norway, Australia and Canada, provide money, technical
assistance and legislative support to Iran under the programme. Rights
groups have raised serious concerns that the assistance may play a
part, direct or indirect, in Iran's human rights violations.

At the very least, Fedotov and his agency should set the record
straight on Iran's abysmal anti-narcotics record when it comes to the
rule of law, the administration of justice, freedom from torture and
ill-treatment and the right to life.

They should also demand accountability for these rights violations and
take measures to ensure that in assisting Iran's anti-drug measures
they are not complicit in violations carried out in the name of a
"strong" anti-narcotics response. Failure to do so, as Iranian
authorities continue their killing spree, would be reckless and
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