Iran Must Halt Death Sentences of Two Men Convicted of Drinking Alcohol

Press Release
June 27, 2012

Iran Must Halt Death Sentences of Two Men Convicted of Drinking Alcohol

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) –Amnesty International todayurged Iran to stop death sentences against two men, whom the Iranian authorities have not named,convicted for the third time of consuming alcohol. The men already have received 80 lashes for two previous convictions.

Seyed Hassan Shariati, head of the judiciary in northeastern KhorasanRazavi province, announced that authorities were preparing to carry out the death sentences upheld by the Supreme Court in Tehran.

Article 179 of Iran's Penal Code provides for a mandatory death sentence following a third conviction for drinking alcohol.

"We oppose the death penalty in all cases, but alcohol consumption cannot reasonably be classified as one of the 'most serious crimes,' the internationally agreed minimum standard for capital crimes to be used by those countries thatstill retain the death penalty," said Ann Harrison, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program. "It is regrettable the Iranian authorities did not take advantage of their recent review of the Penal Code to uphold their international human rights obligations and remove the penalties of flogging and execution for alcohol consumption."

Rising alcohol consumption has been a topic for debate in the Iranian press.

Despite severe penalties for producing, selling or consuming alcohol, it is readily available on the black market in Iran.

Iran is second only to China in terms of the volume of death sentences. More than 600 are believed to have taken place in 2011, most cloaked in secrecy.

Although death sentences for alcohol use are relatively rare, Iran frequently imposes the death penalty for drugs offenses.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.