Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Iran Parliament passes bill that would conditionally exempt poor or unemployed drug offenders from death penalty

Iran, executions
Out of 245 MPs present in the 290-seat parliament 182 voted in favor of the bill. 

It will become a law after being thoroughly studied by the parliament’s Judicial Committee and confirmation by the Guardian Council.

The bill, which was first put forward last year, would conditionally exempt those who commit drug-related crimes due to poverty and unemployment from death penalty. However, those offenders who carry deadly weapons while trafficking drugs as well as drug lords and those with criminal records will still get death sentence.

A review of drug sentencing laws in Iran

Laws pertaining to drug sentencing in Iran criminalize those who perpetrate drug-related offences including import, export, cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs depending on the amount and origin of the drug either being synthetic/semi-synthetic [also known as opioids] or natural [also known as opiates].

As per the law, import, export, cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of 5 kilograms or more of opiates such as opium or 30 grams or more of opioids such as heroin are capital offences.
In case of opiates, the offenders who do not have any criminal records and did not succeed in distribution or sales of 20 kilograms of drugs or less would face life imprisonment. More than 20 kilograms of drugs is a capital offence in any case.

Pros and cons

Not unlike other bills or amendments, there are some who are either in favor of the newly adopted law or against it.

Those in favor of the law reason that some are victims of poverty and unemployment especially in cities adjacent to border areas and do not deserve death sentence.

"Most drug offenders, especially those in border areas would commit such crimes due to poverty and the felons manage to escape punishment. Capital punishment is not an effective deterrent, we must figure out another alternative," Jalil Mohebbi, a jurist, said on Sunday.

“An unemployed young guy who makes a mistake must be given another chance; they should not be charged with felony offense,” Mohebbi added.

Majlis Judicial Committee spokesmen Hassan Norouzi also voiced his consent, saying that harsh punishment is not effective and would not decrease illicit drug trafficking.

"We are not planning to overturn sentence for violent offenders and drug lords; what we are saying is to spare those first-time offenders from severe sentences," Norouzi stated.

Big shot drug lords would usually escape death penalty by spending big money and hiring experienced lawyers, Norouzi lamented.

However, lawmakers who were against the law, argued that the new law would increase manufacture and distribution of drugs but death penalty sends a strong signal to would-be offenders and deter them from committing crimes. They believe that the bill needs to be discussed for further modification.

Watching a public execution in Iran
Watching a public execution in Iran
Crimes punishable by death in Iran include murder, rape, child molestation, sodomy, drug trafficking, armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism and treason.

Human rights organizations and groups as well as Western media outlets have frequently criticized the Tehran government for high number of executions in the country. However, Iranian officials say they are fighting a large-scale drug war along its eastern borders and cite an increase in number drug lords and dealers as a reason for a rise in number of executions.

Last October Iran’s Human Rights Council secretary Mohammad Javad Larijani said drug-related offences account for 93 percent of executions in Iran though all in compliance in law.

“Capital punishment should be limited to drug lords. This will cut the number of executions (in Iran) immediately,” Larijani said in what seemed to be a setback from a tougher stance taken previously.

Iran is a neighbor to Afghanistan, a leading producer and supplier of the world’s drugs. It also faces big challenges at home with a young population susceptible to a variety of cheap and abundant addictive drugs.

The country is also located on the Balkan route which traverses Iran (often through Pakistan), Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria across South-East Europe to the Western European market.

The Balkan and northern routes are the main heroin trafficking corridors linking Afghanistan to the huge markets of the Russian Federation and Western Europe.

According to Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yury Fedotov, Iran is directly or indirectly involved in almost 40 percent of all drug confiscations around the world.

Nevertheless, the newly introduced bill, adopted to limit death penalty for drug-related crimes most significantly for first-time offenders with clean criminal records, will demonstrate Iran’s flexibility in applying its policy on the international scale.

Source: Tehran Times, Maryam Qarehgozlu, July 18, 2017

Iranian Lawmakers Redefine Death Penalty for Drug Crime

Lawmakers on Sunday approved a bill that revises key criteria for death penalties handed out for drug offenses.

The bill, which was approved by 182 votes with 245 lawmakers present, restricts death penalty to drug dealers carrying over 100 kilograms of traditional narcotics (up from 5 kg) or 2 kilograms of psychedelics.

State radio and TV broadcast clips on prime time news showing legislators speaking in favor of and against the bill. Those in favor made the case about the uselessness of the decades-long death penalty that has done nothing of essence to discourage smugglers and reduce the supply of illegal drugs across the country.

The new law (if passed) will target drug lords and crime syndicates – a big departure from the times when small-time dealers and pushers also were sent to the gallows, news outlets reported.

Earlier in November 2016 the bill was endorsed by the Parliament’s Legal and Judicial Commission.

The gradual shift away from the death penalty comes at a time when social scientists and human rights advocates across continents have increasingly questioned the deterrence effect of the death penalty.

Proponents of capital punishment claim the death sentence discourages would-be offenders from committing crimes. Opponents, taking the readily available benefit of numbers and the increasing junkie population, have established that that is not necessarily true.

The bill will become law if approved by the Guardian Council.

The measure aims to reduce the growing number of executions in the country.

“If approved, the bill can prevent the death of many people who have committed drug-related crimes due to poverty and unemployment,” Jalil Mohebbi, director of the Legal Office of the Majlis Research Council and author of the bill, told Mehr News Agency.

Jalil Rahimi Jahanabadi, a senior member of the Majlis Legal and Judicial Commission, is also on the same side.

“Execution is not the solution…it needs to be limited to armed dealers carrying large amounts of this contraband and those who spread corruption” he said, adding that “we must give those who were forced to resort to dealing in drugs another chance at life.”

Small-time offenders with no drug-related history will be sentenced to 15 years, while dealers under the age of 18 will be spared.

Support for the Bill

Earlier, Hassan Norouzi, spokesman of the Legal and Judicial Commission, had said that if approved, the law will apply also to people on death row.

According to data released last November, around 5,000 drug dealers are on death row, 90% of whom are first-time offenders and in the 20-30 year age bracket.

In October 2016, Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights had indicated that the judiciary was reconsidering capital punishment for drug crime and may redefine it to drug smugglers and drug lords.

“The number of executions is high in Iran…but they are in compliance with the law. Nevertheless, execution is not a good idea,” he was quoted as saying.

The increased execution rate for drug-related crimes has not helped discourage or reduce drug crime prompting some officials to demand a review of the death penalty for all drug crimes minus armed trafficking.

Investigations show most drug peddlers are not the actual smugglers or ringleaders, but are those who are dragged and/or tempted into the crime due to poverty, joblessness and hopelessness.

Officials say the battle against drug addiction and trafficking costs Iran $1 billion annually. Iran lies on the transit corridor between the world’s opium capital (Afghanistan) and crime syndicates in Europe and beyond.

Latest official reports say there are 2.8 million addicts in the country. Experts believe the number is much higher.

Source: Financial Tribune, July 18, 2017

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