Iran hanged ten men on Monday despite requests from the United Nations (UN) [official website] and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website; press release] to stay the executions. According to the Iranian judiciary [Reuters report] those who were killed were members of two drug smuggling gangs. One of the men, Saeed Sedeghi, was a shop worker who was convicted on drug charges and allegedly tortured and subjected to mock execution [AI report] while serving in time in Iran's notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. AI reported that Sedeghi was allowed to meet briefly with his mother before his execution and that his body was returned to his family afterward. Prior to the executions Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme Ann Harrison contended that drug-related offenses do not rise to the level of most serious crimes that would permit the use of the death penalty under international law:
Iranian authorities know full well that executing people for drugs offences is contrary to international human rights standards. Executing Saeed Sedeghi and possibly others in a few hours' time, in Tehran's Evin Prison, will do nothing to solve Iran's ever-growing drugs problem but will inflict needless suffering on Iranian families.Iran serves as a narcotics smuggling route for neighboring Afghanistan, which produces 90 percent of the world's opium. According to AI there is no clear evidence that the death penalty has had any identifiable effect in deterring drug-related offenses. Iran is second only to China in executions and reportedly executed at least 368 people so far this year, including 136 executions that have yet to be formally announced.
Iran's human rights record has come under international scrutiny recently. In October a UN official on released a report indicating that the government of Iran is torturing human rights activists [JURIST report] and threatening the activists' families with rape or death. In a report to the UN General Assembly UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed declared that human rights activists in Iran are being subjected to beatings, mock hangings, sleep deprivation and threats that their family members will be killed or raped. Also in October the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged Iran [JURIST report] to halt all executions because the government has failed to provide the accused with fair trials and due process of law. In June three UN Special Rapporteurs condemned [JURIST report] Iran for executing four members of the Ahwazi Arab minority without providing them fair trials.