By John A Raju:
Imagine the eyes of your 25 year old brother looking resignedly at you, with a noose around his neck attached to a crane, ready to lift him off to the beyond and even as your eyes well up and the crowd around you mills around nonchalantly, barely acknowledging this gruesome picture which has now become a common occurrence, nothing to be gawked at or given special attention to. Yeah, he unfortunately had some weed stashed onto him on account of his foolish encounter with some job promising mullah. And a trial took place, yes, but that was beyond some closed doors, and the ‘judgment’ is there for the public to see now.
Ok, thankfully this didn’t happen in India but humans are humans, whether they be in India or Iran. And Iran is indeed the land where this gross violation of human rights is taking place, publicly and with alarming frequency. Amnesty International recently reported that a total of 40 executions have been carried out in Iran since the beginning of 2014. That is an average of 3 hangings per day. Are there this many criminals who deserve such a death in this Islamic state, which is supposedly run according to Sharia, the Islamic code of conduct? Well there are, if you consider drug trafficking worthy of capital punishment. 80% of the executions carried out by Iran this year are due to drug related offences.
According to international standards, drug related crimes do not come under the lethal category and do not come anywhere close to what is described as the most serious crimes for which the death penalty is restricted. Yet, in 2011, Iran carried out a whopping 362 executions, which included 5 women and even a juvenile. The shocking factor is that 275 of these executions were of drug traffickers or those related to the drug trade. That is a hair raising 75%. In 2013, 500+ ‘officially confirmed’ hangings took place, of which 53 were public. Such a blatant disregard for human life and rights is unforgivable and untolerable. Even as the international community has criminalised the execution of juveniles, 43 under 18 ‘kids’ have been hanged in this country in the last two decades. That is just ten less than the ‘official’ number of hangings carried out since independence in India.
The worst part of this is that of the unfair trials, especially for drug traffickers. The criterion used to try alleged offenders fall way short of international standards and to make this worse, there is no meaningful avenue for appeals for those sentenced to hanging either. The trials are held behind closed doors in Revolutionary Courts and the legal counsel provided also fall way below the required international standards. The Narcotics’ Law of Iran is heavily biased against alleged offenders, limiting their opportunity for an appeal. Iran of course, whines that the numbers are exaggerated as part of western propaganda against them. Even as the Iranian leadership changed hands to accommodate a more moderate Rouhani, the executions continue unabated. The repeated UN warnings are falling on deaf ears.
The apparent reform attempts by the Rouhani government is yet to percolate to the domestic policy network. Meting out the death penalty to anyone, on whatever grounds, is a violation of human rights. Capital punishment has never proved to be an adequate deterrent to any crime. Even in the rarest of rare cases, life imprisonment is sufficient as a criminal behind bars for life poses no threat to the society. To seek vengeance for a horrific crime is a natural human instinct, but the doctrine of an eye for an eye, according to the father of our nation, is only going to leave the whole world blind. Yet the Iranian state continues to hand down capital punishments arbitrarily at a rate matched only by the rate of petrol price rise in India. This arbitrary death penalties are sure to sentence a substantial amount of innocents too. The international community must raise loud voices against this unforgivable miscarriage of justice against the Iranian citizens. There may be innocent people dying on account of a mere allegation or the whim of a presiding judge.