"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Iran hardliners cling to death penalty

Public execution in Iran
Public execution in Iran
The jailing of a well-known campaigner against the death penalty and a sharp rise in executions has once again put Iran's poor human rights record in the spotlight.

Narges Mohammadi, a well-known human rights lawyer and campaigner, (...) has been in and out of jail on charges related to her work, for much of the past five years.

In 2012, after suffering severe ill-health, Ms Mohammadi was granted leave to serve the remainder of a six-year prison sentence at home.

But last week while [her]children were at school, intelligence officials came to the house, with no warning or explanation, and took her back to jail.

One of the charges levelled against Ms Mohammadi was that she was running an "illegal group" campaigning against the death penalty.

It is a tough cause to fight in a country that has the second highest rate of executions in the world, after China.

When President Rouhani swept to power in 2013, there were hopes his more moderate stance would mean improvements in human rights.

But since he took office, the number of executions carried out in Iran has actually risen.

The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights organisation says Iran executed 735 people in 2014 - a 10% increase on the previous year.

In April the group said it had documented 43 judicial killings in Iran in just three days.

It is impossible to independently verify these numbers, but most human right observers say they are credible.

The majority of executions carried out in Iran are for drugs-related offences And in a country with a serious addiction problem, they elicit little public sympathy.

But in the past two years, there have been a number of high-profile death row cases - mainly involving juvenile offenders or women - which have struck a chord with the public, prompting appeals for clemency.

But President Rouhani has so far kept silent about the death penalty.

The main reason is that constitutionally he has very little room to act.

Although he is the elected president, Iran's complex power structure means Mr Rouhani has no power over the judiciary, which answers instead to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The judiciary is dominated by hardliners deeply suspicious of the overtures Mr Rouhani has been making to old adversaries such as the US.

The more ground the president gains on the international stage, the more resistance the hardliners will put up to any change to the status quo at home.


Source: BBC News, Rana Rahimpour, BBC Persian Service, May 12, 2015

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