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According to data released last November, around 5,000 drug dealers are on death row, 90% of whom are first-time offenders.
According to data released last November, around 5,000 drug dealers are on death row, 90% of whom are first-time offenders.

Lawmakers Redefine Death Penalty for Drug Crime

Those in favor of redefining the death penalty stress the “uselessness” of the decades-long death penalty that has done nothing of essence to discourage smugglers and reduce the supply of illegal drugs

Lawmakers Redefine Death Penalty for Drug Crime

Lawmakers on Sunday approved a bill that revises key criteria for death penalties handed out for drug offenses.

The bill, which was approved by 182 votes with 245 lawmakers present, restricts death penalty to drug dealers carrying over 100 kilograms of traditional narcotics (up from 5 kg) or 2 kilograms of psychedelics.

State radio and TV broadcast clips on prime time news showing legislators speaking in favor of and against the bill. Those in favor made the case about the uselessness of the decades-long death penalty that has done nothing of essence to discourage smugglers and reduce the supply of illegal drugs across the country.

The new law (if passed) will target drug lords and crime syndicates – a big departure from the times when small-time dealers and pushers also were sent to the gallows, news outlets reported.

Earlier in November 2016 the bill was endorsed by the Parliament’s Legal and Judicial Commission.

The gradual shift away from the death penalty comes at a time when social scientists and human rights advocates across continents have increasingly questioned the deterrence effect of the death penalty.

Proponents of capital punishment claim the death sentence discourages would-be offenders from committing crimes. Opponents, taking the readily available benefit of numbers and the increasing junkie population, have established that that is not necessarily true.

The bill will become law if approved by the Guardian Council.

The measure aims to reduce the growing number of executions in the country.

 “If approved, the bill can prevent the death of many people who have committed drug-related crimes due to poverty and unemployment,” Jalil Mohebbi, director of the Legal Office of the Majlis Research Council and author of the bill, told Mehr News Agency.

Jalil Rahimi Jahanabadi, a senior member of the Majlis Legal and Judicial Commission, is also on the same side.

“Execution is not the solution…it needs to be limited to armed dealers carrying large amounts of this contraband and those who spread corruption” he said, adding that “we must give those who were forced to resort to dealing in drugs another chance at life.”

Small-time offenders with no drug-related history will be sentenced to 15 years, while dealers under the age of 18 will be spared.

 Support for the Bill

Earlier, Hassan Norouzi, spokesman of the Legal and Judicial Commission, had said that if approved, the law will apply also to people on death row.

According to data released last November, around 5,000 drug dealers are on death row, 90% of whom are first-time offenders and in the 20-30 year age bracket.

In October 2016, Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights had indicated that the judiciary was reconsidering capital punishment for drug crime and may redefine it to drug smugglers and drug lords.

 “The number of executions is high in Iran…but they are in compliance with the law. Nevertheless, execution is not a good idea,” he was quoted as saying.

The increased execution rate for drug-related crimes has not helped discourage or reduce drug crime prompting some officials to demand a review of the death penalty for all drug crimes minus armed trafficking.

Investigations show most drug peddlers are not the actual smugglers or ringleaders, but are those who are dragged and/or tempted into the crime due to poverty, joblessness and hopelessness.

Officials say the battle against drug addiction and trafficking costs Iran $1 billion annually. Iran lies on the transit corridor between the world’s opium capital (Afghanistan) and crime syndicates in Europe and beyond.

Latest official reports say there are 2.8 million addicts in the country.  Experts believe the number is much higher.

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