Both Iran, Saudi Arabia on a judicial killing...
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Jan 05, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Both Iran, Saudi Arabia on a judicial killing spree

Iran has loudly protested the killing of Shiite cleric Nimr Baqr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia. But human rights groups say it is a world leader in executions

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When Saudi Arabia executed Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr on Saturday, Iran was quick to condemn it as an unlawful killing and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called on “divine vengeance.”

But Iran itself carries out more executions than Saudi Arabia, and is similarly accused of torture, illegal detentions, unfair trials and draconian sentences. Both countries, in fact, appear to be on a spree of judicial executions over the past decade.

“Iran continues to execute more individuals per capita than any other country in the world,” says a UN report tabled in October. “(They) have been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 since 2005 and peaked in 2014 at a shocking 753 executions.”

The report said they have escalated at a “further staggering rate” in the past year, likely reaching Iran’s highest execution rate in 25 years. Iran’s reported figure was 289 executions in 2014, but human rights monitors say the real total could be about 1,000 for 2015.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, with a population of about 31 million — compared with Iran’s 80 million people — carried out 47 executions in a single day on Jan. 2, beginning 2016 with its largest single mass state killing since 1980.

It followed a year with one of the highest execution rates in the wealthy oil state’s recent history: at least 151 people were executed up to November 2015, according to Amnesty International. The previous peak in recorded executions was in 1995, when 192 people died, many of them beheaded.

In both Iran and Saudi Arabia, substantial numbers of executions are drug related, said Kate Higham of the London-based charity Reprieve, which assists prisoners threatened with the death penalty.

“Both countries have executed huge numbers of people on drug offences, which are non-lethal crimes.”

In Saudi Arabia, she said, many who are killed are foreigners, and “low down the food chain, like those forced into smuggling drugs unknowingly.” Although both countries are “opaque” about execution figures, about 69 per cent of those facing execution in Saudi Arabia are condemned for non-violent offences.

As sectarian violence spreads through the Middle East, the kingdom’s rulers are also cracking down on terrorism, and if those executed last week on terrorism-related charges are any indication, numbers could escalate.

In Iran, there is a “killing spree of poor people trapped under drug laws,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “The majority are poor, illiterate and have no connections that can get them off.”

It is also a “leading country for executing juveniles under the age of 18,” he added.

Reprieve reported that a 15-year-old boy named Jannat Mir was executed on drug charges in 2014, and a 17-year-old boy, Osman Dahmarde, was hanged alongside his mother.

Human rights groups have blamed a multimillion-dollar UN program that funds Tehran’s counter narcotics trafficking operations for boosting numbers of those who fall victim to the hangman’s noose.

But, said Ghaemi, it’s also the result of a judiciary that has gone rogue. After a more moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, took office, “they want to show they’re not going to be influenced by any (political) changes. It’s a way of proving their independence.”

Although 20 lawmakers recently introduced legislation to stop executions for drug charges, he added, nothing will happen until after February, when a new parliament is elected.

In Saudi Arabia, said Higham, “it’s difficult to say why these (drug) executions are happening. A likely explanation is that there’s a new regime coming to power and wanting to appear tough on crime. But there are no studies showing the executions have any deterrent effect.”

Toronto Star

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