Iran using UN drugs agency to ‘demonstrate support’ for mass hangings, warns UN investigator

Tehran, Iran (Reprieve) – A UN investigator has warned that executions in Iran could hit 1000 this year, driven in large part by an increase in people being hanged for alleged drug offences – with officials justifying hangings by pointing to the support of a UN anti-drugs agency.

"Iran in its region" by TUBS -

“Iran in its region” by TUBS –

The report by Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, finds that “at least 69% of executions during the first six months of 2015 were reportedly for drug-related offences.” A total of at least 694 people had reportedly been hanged by 15 September this year, Mr Shaheed writes, including “at least…one juvenile.”

However, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) continues to fund counter-narcotics programmes which lead to the arrests and executions of alleged drug offenders in Iran – despite concerns raised by human rights organisations including Reprieve.

The UNODC is understood to be currently finalising a deal to provide funding from Western states for a new round of counter-narcotics operations in the country, though the details have not yet been made public.

Mr Shaheed’s report suggests that Iranian officials may be using statements provided by the UNODC to provide cover for the country’s use of capital punishment for non-violent drug offences: “[Iranian] Officials assert that capital punishment functions as a sound deterrent to would-be criminals,” he writes, adding that “Officials also pointed to statements about its efforts issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to demonstrate international support for its approach.”

In a blog post earlier this month, Mr Shaheed called on “International agencies and states providing assistance to combatting drug trafficking” to “ensure that their activities do not contribute to the execution of individuals for drug crimes.”

Commenting, Dan Dolan, from the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: “Iran is hanging drug offenders at more than twice the rate of last year, representing an unprecedented execution spree. Despite this, the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime is lining up a generous new funding deal for Iran’s notorious drug police, while Iranian officials publicly boast of UN support to justify their brutal and oppressive practices. If the international community is to have any hope of ending Iran’s hanging campaign, future funding for Iranian drug raids should be strictly conditional on abolition of the death penalty for drug offences.”

This report prepared by Reprieve.