[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile], on Thursday urged Iran to stop executions [press release] over drug offenses pending the debate of a law that would remove the mandatory death penalty as punishment for those convicted of drug offenses. Citing the fact that the highest number of executions, 966, in “more than two decades” were carried out last year with a majority being related to convictions on drug charges, Zeid said that the law was an “encouraging sign” from Iran. He concluded his remarks urging a moratorium on the death penalty until the law had been debated.
Much international pressure has been directed toward Iran in recent years for its use of the death penalty. Last month UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, expressed continued concern regarding Iran’s alarming rate of juvenile executions [JURIST report] and other flaws in the justice system. In February Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized Iran’s justice system after 40 men were sentenced to death [JURIST report]. In January AI reported on the many juvenile offenders [JURIST report] on death row in Iran.