B. All restrictions and fair trial standards pertaining to capital punishment
contained in international human rights law are fully respected in
proceedings relating to capital offences
In General Comment 36, the Human Rights Committee explicitly stipulated that the term “the
most serious crimes” must “be read restrictively and appertain only to crimes of extreme gravity,
involving intentional killing. Crimes not resulting directly and intentionally in death […],
although serious in nature, can never serve as the basis, within the framework of Article 6, for
the imposition of the death penalty. In the same vein, a limited degree of involvement or of
complicity in the commission of even the most serious crimes, […], cannot justify the imposition
of the death penalty.”7
The death penalty continues to be applied in the Islamic Republic of Iran to a wide range of
offences that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes”, in other words, crimes that do
not involve intentional killing,8 in contravention of Article 6 of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights. For example, the death penalty may be applied in some cases of
adultery,9 for certain cases of consensual same-sex intercourse between men, 10 drug related
offences or repeated occurrences of drinking alcohol, or for vaguely defined offences such as
moharebeh (“enmity against god”)11 and efsad-e fel-arz (“corruption on earth”).12
In November 2017, an amendment made to the law on drug trafficking entered into force,
replacing the mandatory death penalty with a prison term of up to 30 years for non-violent drugrelated offences and increasing the quantity of drugs required for a death sentence to be imposed.
However, mandatory death sentences for numerous drug-related offences remained and a number
of crimes were transformed into capital crimes for first-time offenders in specific
circumstances.13 In 2019, reportedly 30 individuals were executed on drug-related charges.14 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. 15
On the issue of access to justice in capital punishment cases, Article 35 of the Constitution of the
Islamic Republic of Iran guarantees the right to legal defence, which also ensures the right to
choose a lawyer. In the event that a party to a lawsuit is unable to secure legal counselling,
7

UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment no. 36, Article 6 (Right to Life), 3 September 2019, CCPR/C/GC/35,
available at https://www.refworld.org/docid/5e5e75e04.html
8 UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment no. 36, Article 6 (Right to Life), 3 September 2019, CCPR/C/GC/35,
available at https://www.refworld.org/docid/5e5e75e04.html
9 Islamic Penal Code (2013) articles 136 and 225
10 Islamic Penal Code (2013) article 235
11 Islamic Penal Code (2013) article 279
12
Islamic Penal Code (2013) article 286
13
Drug trafficking law, articles 8 and 45.
14 ECPM, Iran Human Rights, https://www.ecpm.org/wp-content/uploads/Rapport-iran-2020-gb-070420-WEB.pdf
15 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.

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