The Islamic Republic of Iran is currently facing a drug epidemic within its population. It also continues the sentencing of juveniles with death penalties. The two issues are linked.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad, spoke following the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council, of Iran’s practice of the executing of juvenile offenders, or individuals who were juveniles when the crime was committed. Iran executed five juveniles in 2017, more than any other country in the world. This is a major concern. It goes against both the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, two treaties which the Islamic Republic of Iran has ratified.
There is a need for Iran to display compassion to those individuals that have committed these crimes. The behaviour of a child should not, regardless of their actions, be punished with the death penalty. The Next Century Foundation asks the Islamic Republic of Iran to remember the behaviour of the Prophet Mohammed and his willingness to show compassion to those that transgressed.
Iran has made efforts to curb the number of executions within the country. The suspension of the death penalty to around 5,000 inmates that were on death row is an encouraging sign and should be praised. This despite the fact that many within Iran believe that harsh criminal punishments are one of the few ways to curb the drug epidemic that Iran is currently suffering from.
Iran has a major drug problem. Levels of drug addiction are soaring and there is a serious need to control this epidemic. In 2017, there were 2.8 million people who were ‘regularly consuming drugs’. The vast majority of this drug use is opium. The real figures may well be larger as often people do not wish to admit to drug use. This is truly an epidemic and one that is damaging Iranian society.
This is a strain on the hospitals that are needed to aid victims of drug abuse. 25% of heroin users in Iran are now HIV/AIDS positive. The epidemic has also placed a major strain on the police and border control. Youth unemployment has caused many to turn to drug use, including those that have completed higher education. All addictions are tragedies, but excessive drugs use by the young and disenfranchised is a major concern.
90% of the world’s opium is produced in neighbouring Afghanistan. This is no coincidence. Since the resurgence of the Taliban, opium production in the country has skyrocketed, and this has caused major problems in Iran. 60% of drug traffic out of Afghanistan goes through Iran. Iran is the beginning of the smuggling journey to the rest of the world.
Therefore, we have two major problems that need addressing: juvenile executions and the drug epidemic. The Next Century Foundation requests that the international community offer its aid in helping to curb the drug epidemic in Iran. In response, as a sign of a willingness to co-operate, Iran could introduce further criminal justice system reforms. The international community can offer to improve border security in Iran along its Afghan border. IImproved security there will help lower the volume of drugs smuggled into the country and reduce the supply side of the drug economy that is damaging Iran.
Recognising there are many within Iran that believe strong punishments for drug offenders are a necessity to prevent skyrocketing drug abuse figures; the Next Century Foundation asks that Iran at least removes the death penalty for juveniles convicted of non-drug offences. This will show a willingness to work to progress further towards international standards.