According to Amnesty International, Iran ranks second in executions after China. In 2017, it had more than half of all recorded executions around the world. This London-based International human rights watchdog further noted that 507 people were executed in the country, which accounted for 60% of all the confirmed executions in the region. 501 were men, while six were women with the most significant percentage comprising people convicted of murder (240) and drug trafficking (250). Only four had been convicted for rape, eleven for robbery and three for kidnapping. Sadly, some of the convicts were executed for crimes they committed when they were below 18 years. This has stirred uproar as human rights activists condemn Iran death penalty on such convicts. The activists cite that it is a violation of international law. It is this organisation’s efforts that spawned a reduction in death penalty cases to 253 in 2018. Here are more reasons for the recent reduction in death penalties over the last two years:
Amnesty International attributed the reduction to the recently amended Anti-Narcotics Law, which increased the levels of drug possession required to impose a death sentence. Advocates of this law sought to outlaw executions for people engaging in non-violent drug offences. However, after numerous legislative battles, a conclusion was made to raise the amount of drugs that could lead to a mandatory death penalty. Since the implementation of this law, the Iranian judiciary halted executions for drug offences in a bid to review the existing 15,000 convicts’ cases scheduled for death row.
The change in the anti-narcotics laws came after a decade of advocacy by the different international human rights bodies. Also, the civil society had taken to the task with activists convincing families to forgive the convicts. The efforts have yielded fruit over the last decade with 200 cases of forgiveness recorded each year in the last four years. The Iranian Human Rights movement reported an increase in 2018 as 272 cases of forgiveness were recorded. Maryam Rajavi has also weighed in abolishing Iran death penalty by seeking to overhaul the legal system. She plans to revive conciliation, friendship and tolerance among Iranian citizens.
Today, Iranian society is more informed about the irreversible effects of death penalties on children. Activists have actively created awareness on the general public to change opinion about executions in Iran.
Prior to the amendment of the drug law, most executions were related to drug offences. The new law imposes execution if the convict engaged in intentional murder under the qisas principle. Also known as retribution in kind, the principle demands the victim’s heirs to forgive and request blood money. As such, the judge sentences the accused to a maximum of ten years in prison. The official government has set a rate for blood money, but families are free to ask for an amount that suits them. Since many of the accused cannot afford the payments, activists and charity workers join forces to raise the money. It explains why there is a fund-raising every year where soccer players, actors and other celebrities participate.