such as moharebeh (“enmity against god”)6 and efsad-e fel-arz (“corruption on earth”).7 The
Human Rights Committee explicitly stipulated that the imposition of the death penalty cannot
“be based on vaguely defined criminal provisions, whose application to the convicted individual
would depend on subjective or discretionary considerations the application of which is not
reasonably foreseeable.”8 The lack of precision and clarity about the crime of moharebeh, for
instance, grants judges with broad discretion.
In November 2017, the law on drug trafficking was amended, replacing the mandatory death
penalty with a prison term of up to 30 years for non-violent drug-related offences and increasing
the quantity of drugs required for a death sentence to be imposed. However, mandatory death
sentences for numerous drug-related offences were retained and a number of crimes were
transformed into capital crimes for first-time offenders in specific circumstances. 9 In 2019,
reportedly 30 individuals were executed on drug-related charges.10 The Human Rights Committee
has consistently underscored that drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of “most serious
crimes” and that the death penalty should not be applied to them. 11
Despite the existence of several means and mechanisms that accept complaints regarding the
violation of rights in Iran, such as the Judge’s Disciplinary Court, the Article 90 Parliamentary
Commission and, in general, any appeals courts including the Supreme Court, there is no official
and readily available information to suggest that these complaints are properly investigated and
adjudicated. Iran does not have any administrative processes or independent human rights
monitoring mechanisms in place that ensure that the application of the death penalty is in line
with international human rights standards.
Between January 2015 and December 2018, the Islamic Republic of Iran reportedly executed at
least 2,303 people.12 Reports received by OHCHR indicated a decrease in the number of
executions between 2017 and 2018 (437 in 2017 compared to 207 in 2018 for the same period).
13 On the other hand, Iran Human Rights and ECPM reported at least 273 executions in 2018,
273 in 2019 and continued during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 with 280 executions


Islamic Penal Code (2013), Article 279, English translation, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center,
7 Islamic Penal Code (2013), Article 286, English translation, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center,
8 UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), General comment no. 36, Article 6 (Right to Life), 3 September 2019, CCPR/C/GC/35,
available at:
9 Drug trafficking law, arts. 8 and 45
10 ECPM, Iran Human Rights,
CCPR/C/PAK/CO/1, para. 17; CCPR/C/THA/CO/2, para. 17; CCPR/C/KWT/CO/3, para. 22; A/71/372, para. 48; and Human
Rights Committee, general comment No. 36.
12 Amnesty International,
13 Report of the UN Secretary General on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, February 2019,


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