Iran drug executions ‘funded by Europe’ under new UN deal

March 19, 2015

European funds could help send drug mules to their deaths in Iran if a new funding deal is completed by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The UNODC is currently negotiating a new five-year funding agreement for Iran’s Anti-Narcotics Police (ANP), despite warnings that those arrested in the ANP’s raids are frequently sentenced to death. UNODC chief Yury Fedotov travelled to Iran last month to pledge that a deal would be finalised “in the next two months”, adding that “no country can compete with Iran when it comes to the amount of narcotics discovered and seized.”

Mr Fedotov’s words came as reports suggested a surge in the number of drug offenders being hanged in Iran, with at least 141 reportedly hanged in the first two months of the year.

Research by the human rights organization Reprieve has found that at least EUR15 million in European support can be directly linked to the arrests and hangings of thousands of people – including women, children, and a number of European nationals. In one 2014 case, a 15-year old Afghan boy, Jannat Mir, was hanged for allegedly moving heroin across the Afghan/Iranian border, during a period in which the UNODC was overseeing a EUR 5 million border operation.

Denmark, Ireland, and the UK have recently withdrawn their support for UNODC programmes in Iran, but European states including France continue to contribute, providing the ANP with training, border posts, and equipment.

The UNODC’s own human rights guidance advises that if executions for drug related offences continue, the body should “employ a temporary freeze or withdrawal of support”.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“Iran has hanged more than a hundred so-called drug offenders this year, and the UN has responded by praising the efficiency of the Iranian drug police and lining them up a generous five-year funding deal. The lion’s share of this funding is set to come from European governments, who continue to condemn the death penalty while funding drug raids where those caught are hanged from cranes in public.

“This is a costly and untenable hypocrisy, and the time has come for European countries to make their counternarcotics assistance strictly conditional on the states which receive it abolishing the death penalty for drug offences”.


Notes to editors

1. For more information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8140

2. Reprieve’s 2014 report into European funding and executions for drug offences in Iran and Pakistan can be read here.