EU cash linked to execution of drug offenders in Iran - Reprieve

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. © Reuters
Concerns are mounting that an EU-backed counter-narcotics program in Iran could prompt state executions for drug-related offenses, a leading human rights organization has said.

The initiative, which is run by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and covers Afghanistan and Iran, has received more than 2 million euros from the EU.

UNODC supports Iranian officers clamping down on drug use, and has sparked concern amid surging drug-related executions.

Further EU funding may also be diverted to Iranian law enforcement through a new $20 million deal, which could see twice as much EU money spent on drug raids in Iran.

Reprieve reports that in 2016 Iran hanged more than 600 prisoners on drugs charges. The group warns that 10 drug-related arrests, which UNODC reported as successful, have since resulted in executions. This figure includes the death of Janat Mir, who was just 15 when he was arrested.

Reprieve’s concern over the situation comes as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prepares to visit France and Italy next week, the first visit of its type in over a decade. Last year he said that abolishing the death penalty would only serve to aid the Afghan drug trade.

If we abolished the death penalty we would enhance [Afghan] drug trafficking up to the European countries and that would be dangerous for you,” Rouhani said.

Iran’s execution rate has soared in recent times, with hundreds dispatched to the gallows on drugs-related charges, Reprieve caseworker Dan Dolan said.

The EU has no legitimate defense for supporting this, and it should reject the absurd claim by Iran’s President Rouhani that these executions are somehow in Europe’s interests,” he said.

If the EU is to maintain any credibility in opposing the death penalty, it should end this grievous misuse of taxpayers’ money, and freeze counter-narcotics funding to states which sentence drug offenders to death – whether that’s Iran, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia,” Rouhani continued. “It should also review all EU funding for law enforcement programmes overseen by the UN’s drugs agency, which has shown a complete disregard for human rights.”

Relations between Iran and the West have thawed in recent months and sanctions on the country were lifted last week in a landmark political gesture.

But Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that Tehran should still be wary of the US. Speaking during a live broadcast, he congratulated the Iranian president, but added that the country should remain vigilant.

"I reiterate the need to be vigilant about the deceit and treachery of arrogant countries, especially the United States, in this [nuclear] issue and other issues," Khamenei said.

"Be careful that the other side fully meets its commitments. The comments made by some American politicians in last two, three days are suspicious."