defined offences such as moharebeh (“enmity against god”)6 and efsad-e fel-arz (“corruption on
earth”) that do not necessarily involve intentional killing.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 around what can constitute a crime of moharebeh, for instance, grants
judges broad discretion in interpretation and does not satisfy the principle of nulla poena sine
lege (principle of legality).
In November 2017, the law on drug trafficking was amended to replace the mandatory death
penalty with a prison term of up to 30 years for non-violent drug-related offences and increase
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 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.10
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 little
evidence to suggest that these complaints are properly analyzed and adjudicated. Iran does not
have any administrative processes or independent human rights monitoring mechanisms in place
to ensure the prohibition of capital punishment.
Between January 2015 and December 2018, the Islamic Republic of Iran reportedly executed at
least 2,303 people.11 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).
On the other hand, ECPM and Iran Human Rights reported at least 273 executions in 2018,


Islamic Penal Code (2013), Article 279, English translation, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center,
Islamic Penal Code (2013), Article 286, English translation, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center,
UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), General comment no. 36, Article 6 (Right to Life), 3 September 2019,
CCPR/C/GC/35, available at:
Drug trafficking law, arts. 8 and 45
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.
Amnesty International,
Report of the UN Secretary General on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, February


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