Iran justice minister calls for revision of death penalty law

Sunday 30/10/2016
Pourmohammadi: Quantity of executions has not been effective

TEHRAN - Iran's justice minister has said the country should execute fewer people and revise its death penalty laws, local media reported Sunday.

"These last years, the quantity of executions has not been effective. As a result, there must be a revision of the death penalty law," said Mostafa Pourmohammadi, according to the Tasnim news agency.

"The judiciary as a whole shares this opinion," he said.

Pourmohammadi called for "alternative penalties", but said it was not possible to abolish capital punishment entirely because "there are corrupt people in the country for whom there is no alternative but execution."

The United Nations says the Islamic republic executed close to 1,000 people last year. Iran does not provide figures.

Convictions for murder, rape, armed robbery and adultery can all carry the death penalty, but the vast majority of executions are linked to drug trafficking.

A bill to revise the use of capital punishment has been put before parliament -- one of the first since elections this year reduced the number of conservative MPs -- but it has yet to be discussed.

The deputy head of the judiciary, Mohammad Bagher Olfat, said in August that the death penalty had not had a "dissuasive effect" on drug trafficking through Iran, which is one of the main routes for Afghan heroin heading for Europe.

"Sadly, the volume of trafficking, its diversity and the number of people involved have all increased," he told Tasnim.

The head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, said last month that drug laws were not "written in stone", but denied that the death penalty was ineffective.

Earlier this year, an award-winning activist, Narges Mohammadi, was imprisoned for 10 years for forming an "illegal group" that pressed for an end to the death penalty.