Iran could cut down on executions

Iran could cut down on executions

After 1,000 death sentences carried out in 2015, parliamentary bill aims to remove drug smuggling from list of capital offenses

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of an execution in Iran. (AFP/Arash Khamooshi/ISNA)
Illustrative photo of an execution in Iran. (AFP/Arash Khamooshi/ISNA)

Iran’s parliament is considering a bill that would dramatically reduce the number of executions the country carries out each year by no longer treating drug smuggling as a capital offense.

Iran, which hanged some 1,000 people in 2015, is second only to China in the number of executions it performs annually.

However, the bill is likely to face strong opposition from conservative members of the judiciary who oppose any changes in laws they see as being in line with Islamic values, The New York Time reported on Tuesday.

Reformist lawmaker Yahya Kamalpour explained to the semi-official ISNA new agency that the bill calls for a more scientific way of dealing with drug abuse.

“We want to eliminate the death penalty for those criminals who act out of desperation,” Kamalpour said. “We need a scientific and not an emotional approach to this problem.”

No single party has a majority in Iran’s new parliament, which was installed in August following elections in May and is considered less conservative than its predecessor.

Even if parliament passes the bill, it would still require confirmation by the 12-member Guardian Council, which is dominated by hardliners. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ultimate control over whether or not the bill is accepted, but his views on the matter are not clear.

Drug smugglers make up the majority of those executed, according to the report. In Iran, where there is a significant problem of drug use and smuggling, possession of just 30 grams of heroin is enough to earn a death sentence.

While local media reported that in 2015 the country executed 950 people, the UN put the figure at 1,000, and human rights groups said there were 1,500 death sentences carried out.

The head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, rejected the move to change the law.

Speaking with the semiofficial Fars news agency last week, he said: “If the judiciary had not taken a tough stance, the situation would have been very bad, and drugs would have been available even at traditional medicine stores.”

According to the Times, public hangings are no longer as common in Iran as they were in the past and do not usually draw large crowds.

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