United Nations supports mass executions in Iran for drug offenses

Iran Executions
Reprieve – Iran executes 331 for drugs offences – with UN and European support

Iran executed 331 people for drug-related charges in 2013, a new report published today by the non-profit organisation Iran Human Rights reveals.

The findings will put further pressure on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and a number of European countries which continue to fund counter-narcotics policing operations in countries such as Iran which impose the death penalty for drugs offences.

UNODC, which receives significant funding from the UK, France and EU (among others) runs programmes in Iran and Pakistan which help the countries’ anti-narcotics forces carry out arrests and prosecutions – inevitably contributing to large numbers of death sentences, as no conditions are imposed on the aid to prevent this outcome.

Executions for drugs offences make up almost half the total number of executions identified by IHR for 2013: 331 out of 687. IHR notes that “Possession and trafficking of narcotic drugs remain the charges the most commonly used against those executed in Iran in 2013.”

Pakistan’s imposition of the death penalty for drugs offences makes a major contribution to its death row population of around 8000 – thought to be the largest in the world. The UK continues to fund Pakistan’s Anti Narcotics Force via UNODC projects, despite the organisation highlighting the four death penalties it secured in 2013 as among its key “achievements.”

Khadija Shah, a young mother from Birmingham, is one of a number of British citizens potentially facing the death penalty on Pakistan on drugs charges – a situation towards which the UK taxpayer contributes through aid provided to the ANF.

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of legal charity Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “It is scandalous that the UNODC continues to – in effect – fund the death penalty around the world. The huge numbers of people executed on drugs charges in Iran last year must act as a wake-up call for the UNODC. Either it needs to put in place measures which prevent its support contributing to the death penalty, or it needs to stop funding anti-narcotics projects in those countries which impose it. It is also vital that Britain – which is the biggest donor to anti-narcotics in the region – acts to ensure that public money is not being used to further swell Pakistan’s huge death row population.”

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