Will Death Penalty for Drug Offences be Abolished?

Will Death Penalty for Drug Offences be Abolished?Will Death Penalty for Drug Offences be Abolished?

The bill for abolishing the death sentence for drug-related crimes is expected to be sent to the Majlis in three months. A senior member of the Justice Committee of Parliament has already voiced opposition to the proposal advocated by the Judiciary. Mohammad Razm quoted by ICANA (parliament’s official news website) said “the society is not still capable to swallow the abolishment of capital punishment for drug offences.”

Razm further said ‘’We should be careful that reversing punishment for drug crimes may backfire and in fact do more harm than good.’’ Considering that Iranian youth are faced with threats by drugs such as methamphetamine, crack cocaine, marijuana and other substances like psychedelics, it is hard to imagine that capital punishment for such offences “will be done away with.”

Emphasizing that society is not ready for permissiveness on drugs, he said “it is ultimately up to the Majlis and the Guardian Council to support or vote it down.”

Nevertheless, ‘’we should wait for the bill to come up before the parliament and then the Justice Committee, so that a clear opinion can be given,” said Razm. Since tough punishment for drug crimes were ratified by the Expediency Council, they cannot be commuted to less severe penalties “just like that,” he said. Parliament will definitely study the bill carefully before any votes are given.

 No Mercy

The MP also said that the majority of the Majlis Justice Committee is opposed to the bill. He opined that since capital punishment for drug crimes is carefully regulated and in special cases even reversible “there should be no need for further show of mercy.” There are already three Supreme Court judges investigating such cases before any death sentence is issued,’’ he said. Death penalty for drug crimes which were irrevocable in the past, can now be repealed by a Supreme Court council comprising five judges, he pointed out.  

All things considered, Razm said “it is very unlikely a freeze on death penalties for drug offences will gain the approval of the Majlis.’’ This is an incentive for others to deal in drug crimes and will also expedite the breaking up of families,’’ he maintained. Conversely, he called for prevention and reduction of drug abuse as a better way to deal with the issue.


Another member of the Justice Committee however believes that if there’s any revision in the drug laws, it should be comprehensive, “not just the removal of the death penalty.”

Certainly, no single bill or act will be able to put an end to the death penalty for drug crimes, said Hamid Reza Tabatabaei. ‘’Such laws can only change through consultations with the Expediency Council, and if it necessitates, then changes can be made to the law any time.’’  

Tabatabaei noted that a person “can be hanged for carrying 25 grams of heroin” and said although a mild modification in such punishments would be desirable, halting executions altogether would be a mistake due to the gravity of drug offences.

‘’Amending laws are acceptable as far as they are effective in society,’’ he maintained.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Human Right’s Council, had earlier said the number of drug-related death penalties could be reduced by 80 percent if the current laws change.

 ‘’If parliament passes the law, almost 80% of the executions will be prevented,” he said in an interview with France 24. Larijani’s comments came as Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani said earlier last month that the existing drug and trafficking laws “were not effective and need to be modified.”

Sharing a relatively long border with Afghanistan, Iran is one of the major corridors of drug trafficking in the region. Thousands of traffickers, most of them armed, are arrested annually by Iranian police and border guards.

With a crop yield of some 5,500 tons, Afghanistan accounts for 80% of global opium production. Ranged against the traffickers are some 30,000 Iranian law enforcement officers and border troops, posted along the country’s 1,200 miles of border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since the early 1980s, at least 3600 Iranian soldiers and police have died in this ongoing war against drugs.