Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (24 November) on the Iranian parliament’s decision to amend the country’s law on drug related offences:
The amendment to the anti-drug law approved by the Iranian parliament on 14 November 2017 gives me hope that the number of executions in Iran will at last fall. Under the new law, minor drug-related offences will no longer be subject to the death penalty, but to imprisonment or fines. This does not mean that Iran has abolished the death penalty, but it is a positive step in the right direction. I appeal to Iran to implement the new law consistently.
The death penalty is an inhumane punishment which does not make any sense in terms of legal policy. It is an anachronism in the 21st century! The Federal Government is opposed to it, whatever the circumstances, and works with its EU partners to push for its worldwide abolition.
Iran carries out the second-highest number of executions worldwide (2017: 380, figure as at 2 November 2017), around half of them for drug-related crimes. On 14 November 2017 an amendment to the country’s anti-drug law entered into force which is likely to result in considerably fewer people being executed in Iran in future.
The amendment does not completely abolish the death penalty for drug-related offences, but restricts its use to particular instances. In the majority of cases, a longer prison sentence or a fine will be imposed, rather than the death penalty. The new law also allows those who have already been sentenced to death to apply for their sentence to be altered within the scope of a kind of review.
It is estimated that between 2000 and 5000 prisoners on death row are affected by this ruling. All in all, the new law is a positive development, although the possibility cannot be excluded that in many cases the courts will continue to try to interpret the law in such a way as to allow them to impose death sentences in future.