Will the World Ignore Iran's Execution Binge?

By Irwin Cotler

Despite Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's repeated calls for "moderation" and "respect for human rights in his country," executions in Iran continue at an alarming rate.

According to organizations such as the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center and Iran Human Rights, both of which track execution - and extrapolating from their data - there have been over 250 executions carried out in the first four months 2014.

Indeed, there were 10 executions reported in the first five days of May alone.

Ironically enough, it was Mohammad-Javad Larijani - head of the Iranian judiciary's Human Rights Council - who unwittingly highlighted these heinous crimes by declaring that the international community should be "grateful" to Iran for the "great service to humanity" that it provides in carrying out these executions. However, Larijani lamented that "instead of celebrating Iran, international organizations see the increased number of executions caused by Iran's assertive confrontation with drugs as a vehicle for human rights attacks on the Islamic Republic of Iran."

But the horrific reality of executions in Iran deserves international condemnation - not celebration - while Larijani's absurd defense of his country's record is in blatant contravention of international law, and even Iranian law.

First, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights - to which Iran is a States Party - provides that a "sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes." Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has affirmed that executions for drug-related offenses - which Larijani seeks to justify and even celebrate - do not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes" to which the death penalty might be lawfully applied. Moreover, a not insignificant number of the 687 people executed in 2013 - the largest number executed in a single year since the early Nineties - were convicted of other than drug-related offenses.

Second, for example, the revised Islamic Penal Code of 2013 continues to impose the death penalty for a litany of other crimes that do not meet the "most serious crimes" standard under international law, including not only drug-trafficking but also sexual relations outside marriage, "apostasy," and other vaguely worded political crimes such as "enmity against God."

Finally, death sentences in Iran are frequently carried out following legal proceedings that do not meet basic fair trial standards under international law, including the use of forced confessions, the denial of a fair hearing, or the denial of any hearing at all.

Accordingly, it is not surprising that the most recent US State Department Annual Human Rights Report for Iran documents some of the "most egregious atrocities in recent memory" in 2013.

1 | 2 | Next Page››

The author is a Member of the Canadian Parliament, emeritus professor of law (McGill University) and the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. He is co-Chair with Senator Mark Kirk of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran and a member of the Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.

Sponsored Links
Related Articles
June 14, 2014
ISIS: The Greatest Terror Threat Since Osama bin Laden - Jamsheed Choksy & Carol E.B. Choksy
Irwin Cotler
Author Archive