Expert Conference on Drug Fight: Death Penalty Not Effective, Alternative Punishments Needed
According to the official news agency of the Jurists’ Bassij Organization, the first meeting for “Examining A Reassessment of the Death Penalty for Drug-Related Crimes” was convened at the Jurists’ Bassij Organization, with Dr. Alireza Jazini (Deputy Secretary of the Headquarters for the Fight Against Illicit drugs), Dr. Behzad Razavifard (Allameh Tabatabai University Faculty of Law and Political Science faculty member), Judge Hossein Akbari (Supreme Court Judge and expert on drug cases), and Dr. Mansur Rahmdel Islamic Azad University, Tehran Central Branch faculty member and attorney at law) in attendance. The report of this meeting is as follows:
A Report of the First Meeting on the “Examining A Reassessment of the Death Penalty for Drug-Related Crimes”
This meeting took place under the auspices of the Jurists’ Bassij Organization’s Human Rights and International Affairs Research Institute, and with the cooperation of Emam Sadegh University, Juridical Science and Administrative Services University, Emam Sadegh University’s Office for Human and Citizens’ Rights, and Shahid Beheshti University’s Student Bassij. Dr. Alireza Jazini, Deputy Secretary of the Headquarters for the Fight Against Illicit drugs, Judge Hossein Akbari, Supreme Court Judge, Dr. Razavifard Allameh Tabatabai University Faculty of Law and Political Science’s Deputy for Research, and Dr. Rahmdel Islamic Azad University, Tehran Central Branch faculty member and attorney at law, attended this meeting which convened at 9 o’clock on Monday, February 8 (2016).
First, Mr. Akbari alluded to the previous regime’s profit from the drug trade and [said] that the laws regarding the death penalty were first passed for heroin, before the Revolution. This Supreme Court judge noted a scientific seminar that took place in the beginning of Hashemi Shahrudi’s tenure as the head of the Judiciary Branch, in which renowned criminal professors, legal scholars from other countries and from the Judiciary itself participated, which concluded that the current fight [against drugs] with the heavy punishments was not effective.
This expert on drug cases alluded to an paper that he had presented at the seminar, [which was the result of] field research and had studied 146 criminals sentenced to death and their families’ situation, before and after execution. According to this research paper, the individuals condemned to death were mostly illiterate or with very limited literacy, between 19 and 30 years old, who had been confronted at home with drugs since childhood.
He pointed to Grand Ayatollahs Makarem Shirazi, Nuri Hamedani, Javad Tabrizi, and Ardebili’s religious advice, [to the effect] that the basis of the death penalty for those sentenced to death was not Ta’zir, nor are Hadd or government decree the basis for [these executions]. The revolutionary court retired judge added: “In Europe today, priority is given to fighting demand rather than supply. Experience has shown that we have not been very successful in fighting the transit of drugs in spite of incurring high costs.”
Continuing the conversation, Dr. Rahmdel stated that in spite of reports that criminal legal policy and the fight against drugs have been very tough after the Revolution, the truth is otherwise. Comparing the law before and after the Revolution, he considered the law of 1969-70 the toughest law in fighting illicit drugs, and stated his belief in the [current] regime’s softening of its stance as time goes by.
The Islamic Azad University faculty member considers drugs a social problem, differentiating it from a governmental problem. He believes that making it a governmental problem and then sending it to the Expediency Council, which does not have the competence to pass a law, was a mistake.
The former Tehran University faculty member criticized the West’s outlook toward the problem of drugs in Iran. Dr. Rahmdel stated that Iran had always been keen on fighting drug transit but not only was it not provided with the proper equipment such as night vision cameras and missile, but by giving the traffickers Stinger missiles, they shot down an Iranian airplane over the Lut Desert. This lawyer alluded to the British government’s responsibility regarding drugs in Afghanistan, and proved that government’s lack of sincerity in preventing the exit of drugs [from Afghanistan] to Iran.
Criticizing the high costs of fighting the supply of drugs and of executing petty drug dealers instead of the heads of [trafficking] groups, this Islamic Azad University faculty member believes poverty and economic issues are the main reasons for turning to drugs.
Stating that the annual business derived from drugs in 1994 was 500 billion dollars, Allameh Tabatabai University Faculty of Law and Political Science’s Deputy for Research considered the profits to be attractive to both traffickers and governments. He stated: “The income derived from the transit of drugs results in economically weaker countries to be more [willing] to take part in this economic trend.”
Then, thanking the Jurists’ Bassij Organization for organizing such meetings, Dr. Jazini talked about a proposal by some to the effect that drug traffickers guarantee that not one gram of drugs will be distributed [in Iran] if they’re permitted to transit the drugs to Europe, and stated the Supreme Leader’s strict prohibition of such a thing: “The regime and the Supreme Leader’s position is prohibition of the drug trade for transit to Europe, and every year, Iran is proclaimed the torchbearer of the fight against drugs on this basis; however, there is absolutely no cooperation in this regard from the West.”
Quoting UN statistics, the Deputy Secretary of the Headquarters for the Fight against Illicit Drugs stated that there are 10 million people from 170 countries involved in the supply and demand for drugs. He said that there are 830 thousand acres of land under cultivation producing 7000 tons of drugs, 30% of which is imported into Iran, and the rest is exported to other places in the world through Pakistan and the Balkans.
He estimated the Islamic Republic’s costs in fighting drugs to be approximately 10 thousand billion Tumans, about 500 to 600 billion Tumans of which is spent on 3 to 4-layer border walls and border ditches. He talked of a complex and armed network of drug traffickers in about 40 extremely infested locations in Tehran, where strangers are murdered. The number of weapons discovered by law enforcement agents was 30,000, and, according to his information, two people were killed last week in those same locales.
The Interior Ministry’s Deputy Secretary of the Headquarters for the Fight Against Illicit Drugs talked of good cooperation between the governments of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan at the BLO, but reiterated Afghanistan’s inability [to fight illegal drugs] and the widespread business of drug farming, and stated that Iran’s policies encouraged alternative agriculture, but some farmers [who had done so] had been killed.
Pointing to websites that tell you how to manufacture meth, Dr. Alireza Jazini stated that 51 active sites have already been identified, some of which are being run outside the country, and the FATA (Internet) Police are dealing with local ones.
Alluding to government policies and documents regarding drugs, Dr. Jazini stated that the Headquarters’ policy is to fight demand with a realistic outlook. This Headquarters for the Fight Against Illicit Drugs official added that the Headquarters’ unplanned and urgent meetings after every instance of international pressure is a major problem.
As all the participants were in agreement about the need to revise the death penalty as a punishment for drug criminals, they answered the questions posed by the moderator regarding their proposals for substitute punishments.
Concluding that judicial and police enforcement alone is not the appropriate manner to deal with this social ill, Judge Hossein Akbari proposed the death penalty to be conditional upon the determination of the crimes of Moharebeh and armed action, or for those who are leaders of trafficking gangs. This Supreme Court Judge, enumerated control of delivery, a regional outlook regarding substitute farming, contact with UNODC, and continuing use of various means of fighting demand, as additional ways to proceed in this regard.
Alluding to a prior law treating drug transporters as accomplices [or accessories] [and not as principals], Dr. Mansur Rahmdel considered changing most punishments to life imprisonment with the possibility of obtaining the Supreme Leader’s permission for a prohibition of a pardon for drug crimes, as the proper way to proceed.
Stating that 50 percent of the countries prisoners are drug criminals, this Allameh Tabatabai University professor considered it necessary to allocate separate prisons for these criminals, given the corrupt nature [of their acts]. In conclusion, Dr Razavifard read certain religious opinions by Imam Khomeini and other great religious scholars in line with his own opinion of the death penalty being contrary to religious law in such instances.
Stating that the issue of drugs and the concept of eradication are mutually exclusive, he concluded that the fight against drugs is a permanent war. Recently, a bill entitled “The Bill for the Reform of the Death Penalty in the Law for the Fight against Illicit Drugs” was prepared by the Majless Judicial and Legal Commission and submitted to the Majless, the file for which is put at our audience’s disposal.