Month: July 2012

Iran’s Drug Policy: Hypocrisy in Action by Chris DeVito

July 19, 2012 

by Chris DeVito . Director of Outreach, Iran180

At the end of June, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi delivered a bizarre, rambling, accusatory and anti-Semitic speech that blamed the Talmud, a traditional Jewish holy text, for the world’s drug problems. These comments were made at a conference put on with the help of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. While the absurdity of this statement and others like it is apparent to nearly anyone listening, it tells us all something important about how the regime in Tehran perceives the world, and how it wants to be perceived. It also lays bare the incredible ability of the regime in Tehran to deny reality, and in the process continually create new and more outrageous definitions of the word chutzpah.

Iran does face a daunting drug problem. Being a neighbor to the world’s largest poppy growers in Afghanistan does not help, as Iran sees much of the world’s heroin supply travel through its territory. However, Iran isn’t simply a transit point. By most estimates the country has one of the highest rates of heroin and opium addiction in the world.

This would seem to be ample reason for a serious set of anti-drug policies. Yet simply acknowledging that a problem objectively exists doesn’t let the Iranian regime off the hook. Remember that the regime has used the reality of drug trafficking in Iran to justify unspeakable acts of barbarity.

According to Amnesty International, 488 people were executed in Iran for ‘drug related offenses’ in 2011. Another 171 have been executed so far this year. This charge has become a catchall used by the regime to justify its rampant use of the death penalty. As has been the case in the past, the regime is using the pretense of drug offenses to silence political opposition (as in the case of the Dutch-Iranian woman Zahra Bahrami), intimidate ethnic minorities, and make the regime’s authority crystal clear.

This heinous behavior is compounded by the brazen hypocrisy of the regime’s own actions when it comes to drugs. What exactly am I getting at? There exists the simple fact that the regime is actively participating in the trafficking and distribution of the same narcotics for which it is so wantonly executing others.

In March the United States Department of Treasury labeled Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Gholamreza Baghban a drug “kingpin.” The designation was made pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) because of General Baghban’s direct role in trafficking heroin from Afghanistan, and the connection that the smuggling had to international terrorism.

Further evidence of regime complicity in the drug trade was released to the public in 2009 when aState Department cable from Embassy Baku in Azerbaijan revealed that the regime was directly responsible for increasing flows of opiates through that country. So while the regime has legitimate concerns when it comes to the prevalence of opiates in the country, it’s clearly playing a double game.

It is reasonable to assume that General Baghban is not the only individual involved in the illicit drug trade in Iran, and that the suspicions revealed by Wikileaks are only the tip of the iceberg. But just what is the Iranian regime hoping to achieve by engaging in the sale and trafficking of illegal drugs? The answer is exactly what it is hoping to achieve in its range of other commercial dealings: to bolster its own resources used to support terrorist organizations abroad, to exert increasing levels of control over Iran’s economy, and to surreptitiously maintain a stranglehold on its politics. The regime has also attempted to use the drug trade as diplomatic leverage in the past,threatening Western Europe with greater inflows of drugs if the EU continues to criticize the country’s use of the death penalty. Given its behavior here, it’s little surprise that the regime continues to buck international opinion on issues like its human rights record and continuing illicit nuclear program.

So how should the world deal with Iran’s behavior? Here are three steps that must be taken: First and foremost, the international community must continue to demand that Iran cease applying the death penalty in the thoughtless, cruel, and capricious manner that it does. Iran is once again on pace to execute more on a per capita basis than any country in the world. Second, as world leaders gather for the General Assembly meetings this September, they must highlight this horrible hypocrisy over drugs in Iran. Finally, world powers should demand a complete review of the manner in which the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime deals with Iran. No longer should the UNODC be providing the Iranian regime with a platform to spew hatred. Even more importantly, it should not be providing the Iranian regime with resources that help it continue its brutal assault on its own citizenry.

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SOUTH SUDAN – 15 years old sentenced to death – Save Alphonse Kenyi Makwach

Alphonse Kenyi Makwach

His story
The young Alphonse has been detained since 2010 in the death row of Juba prison, the capital of the new African state of South Sudan. He is charged with multiple murder committed at a time he was deemed to belong to a juvenile gang, called niggers.
His family, from the village of Kalitok, 85 km away from Juba, is extremely poor. Alphonse was the sixth among seven brothers and the only one who could attend the school in a college for two years.
His parents could work only occasionally and they could not afford educational programs for their sons.
In 2008 Alphonse’s family moved to the capital so that his father, who was sick, could get better medical treatment. Alphonse began to sell used plastic bottles, which he collected along the streets. In 2009, the boy was arrested in his house after a shooting which left some victims on the ground. Mild circumstantial proofs led to him, but there was no real evidence of his guiltiness.
Alphonse has repeatedly said that he had been forced with beatings by policemen to admit a murder he did not commit at all. During the summary trial, without any legal defence, Alphonse stubbornly swore his innocence. Anyway, he was sent to prison.
There he was beaten, tortured in order to extort from him an official confession. He kept declaring his innocence.
In January 2010, the minimum age to be sentenced to death in Sudan was risen from 15 to 18 years. Alphonse was just 14 when he got the capital sentence in October of that same year. At the moment his case is pending before the Supreme Court.
Inside the Juba’s death row there are now nine juveniles like Alphonse.
The appeal to save Alphonse
The Community of Sant’Egidio urges everybody to share its appeal aiming to spare Alphonse’s life from the execution, sending the following statement to the competent authorities of South Sudan by e-mail.
To the Supreme Court of South Sudan through H.E. Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin
 Your Excellencies
I am writing to express my deep concern over a ruling that sentenced to death the young Alphonse Kenyi Makwach, despite the law of South Sudan forbids by now the infliction of capital sentences to juveniles, a summary trial without any legal defence which the boy was submitted to, his not listened denounce of suffered tortures he received from the policemen during his interrogation aiming to extort a tainted confession from him, and his reiterated declarations pleading his absolute innocence.
I urge you to intervene on his behalf to prevent this cruel and inhuman punishment from being meted out against him.
I implore you to ensure that this cruel and inhuman sentence is not carried out.
Respectfully yours
(signature and date)