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Human Rights Watch Calls On Iran To Halt Drug-Related Executions

FILE: Drug addicts in Iran
FILE: Drug addicts in Iran

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Iran to halt all executions for drug-related offenses while the parliament discusses amendments to reform the country's drug law.

The Iranian parliament is expected to vote in two weeks on amendments that could drastically reduce the number of drug-related executions.

"It makes no sense for Iran's judiciary to execute people now under a drug law that will likely bar such executions as early as next month," HRW's Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson said in a July 20 statement.

"It would be the height of cruelty to execute someone today for a crime that would at worst get them a 30-year sentence when this law is amended," Whitson added.

The New York-based rights group said the Norway-based Iran Human Rights Organization, which documents executions in Iran, has recorded the executions of 39 people since July 5 on drug-related charges.

Under Iran's current drug law, the trafficking, possession, or trade of as little as 30 grams of heroin is punishable by death.

Earlier this week, the parliament approved a proposal to amend Iran's 1997 Law to Combat Drugs to limit the death penalty for some nonviolent, drug-related offenses.

However, the draft legislation was sent back to the parliamentary judiciary commission to deliberate the proposed changes for certain offenses.

Iran has one of the highest execution rates in the world. Most of the executions are carried out for drug-related convictions.

At least 567 people were put to death in Iran in 2016 mainly for drug-related crimes, according to a report by London-based Amnesty International.