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Iran Tries To Abolish Death Penalty For Trafficking As It Wrestles With Rising Drug Charges


Source: Radio Zamaneh

Iranian parliament's Judicial Commission spokesperson has announced that this commission has agreed with a proposal to reduce death penalty to 30 years in prison for a number of drug-related offences. Meanwhile the number of arrests for drug related charges are increasing in the country.

A female officer searches a women arrested for possession

Hassan Nourouzi an MP and a member of the Judicial Commission of Iranian parliament broke the good news to "Khaneh Mellat", the official media outlet for the parliament.

The abolition of death penalty for some drug and trafficking charges was previously discussed in the Iranian parliament. It is all part of a bill that intends to reform Iranian criminal law and bring down the number of executions related to trafficking, possession and substance abuse.

Under this bill, death penalty for certain drug offences will be replaced by maximum of 30 years imprisonment. However, those convicted of organized trafficking and armed narcotics can still receive the capital punishment.

The bill still needs to be voted on by the members of the parliament and approved by the Guardian Council - a constitutionally mandated 12-member council that has to approve every bill before it can become law.

On 3 April 2017, Iran Human Rights, an organization that documents human rights abuses in Iran announced that in 2016 at least 530 people were executed in the Islamic Republic of Iran - 296 of those were related to drug charges.

At least five juvenile offenders were executed in 2016 in Iran and two of them received the capital punishment for drug related offences.

As the country is trying to bring down the number of executions, the number of arrests for drug charges, possession and trafficking has increased.

Iranian police made nineteen thousand arrests in the first two weeks of april as part of a project to round up "low level drug deals and known users", the interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli reported.

Five thousand of the detainees have been identified as dealers and the rest as addicts. The report adds that the detainees will be held for up to six months in rehabilitation centres.
Head of Tehran's Drug-fighting Coordination Council had reported earlier that 150 to 200 small time drug dealers are arrested on a daily basis in Tehran.

While arrests persists and drug dealing remains one of the most severely punished crimes in Iranian jurisprudence with many leading to the death penalty, the numbers linked to the crime remain high.

The interior minister reports however that the government is trying to change its approach in the fight against drugs concentrating more on prevention and treatment.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei recently pronounced drug addiction as the top source of harm to the country and called on the government to make "extraordinary, extra-customary and double efforts" to eliminate the social damages suffered by this problem.

In this vein, the interior minister has announced that detention and rehabilitation centers in Tehran have increased in numbers. The rehab centers in Tehran used to accommodate five hundred and can now accommodate up to ten thousand. In other cities the private sector is now joining forces with public efforts to provide greater treatment possibilities.

Rahamani Fazli stated that drug addiction in the country has no boundaries and currently affects the employed and unemployed, rich and poor, students and workers all across the board. Statistics reveal that close to 55 percent of Iranians struggling with addiction are employed.

Islamic Republic has spent billions of dollars annually in its fight against drug trafficking and dozens of enforcement officers are killed each year in such missions.

More than fifty percent of executions in Iran, which has the second highest number of executions in the world, are drug related. The majority of the country's prisoners are incarcerated for drug related charges.

The interior minister states that to date the approach has been to arrest and execute small and middle handlers of the drug trafficking business which he confirms has had little overall effect on reducing the problem.

He stressed that there needs to be greater efforts in capturing the top handlers of the drug trafficking networks in the country. Islamic Republic opposition however believes that the top handlers of the billion dollar drug trafficking business are among the top echelons of the system and immune from law enforcement.

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