The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Tel: +44 (0) 20 7413 5566,After hours: +44 7778 472 126,Email:,

Iranian Authorities Must End Secrecy Surrounding Executions of Afghans


Amnesty International is urging the
Iranian authorities to reveal how many Afghan nationals it is holding
on death row amid reports 45 Afghans may have been executed in Iran in
recent weeks.

More than 4,000 Afghans are thought to be in Iranian jails. The
number of those facing the death penalty may be as high as 3,000,
mostly for drug-related offences.

According to Afghan news reports, Afghan MP Gul Ahmad Amini said on
12 April that 45 people had been executed in the preceding days and
their bodies sent back to Afghanistan.

Iranian officials deny such numbers of executions and are refusing to confirm how many Afghans are at risk of execution.

"These numbers are truly disturbing," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui,
Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.
"Iran must immediately put a stop to these executions and reveal how
many Afghans it has executed.

"We are also calling on the authorities to come clean on exactly how
many Afghan nationals they are holding in Iranian jails. At the moment,
nobody knows for certain how many have been arrested, what crimes they
have been convicted of or what their fate is likely to be. This secrecy
can only increase the risk of miscarriages of justice.

"We're particularly worried by the fact that so many of the Afghans
in Iranian prisons have been convicted of drug-related offences and may
therefore be sentenced to death."

An estimated one million Afghan refugees are living in Iran after
fleeing more than three decades of conflict in Afghanistan. In recent
years, hundreds of thousands of other Afghans have entered the country
as irregular migrants.

Concern for Afghan prisoners grew in March following the visit of a
group of Afghan MPs to Iran, which has one of the highest rates of
executions in the world.

Following the visit, Afghan MP Taj Mohammed Mojahed said officials
from the Iranian Supreme Court had told them that 5, 630 Afghans were
in prison with more than 3,000 sentenced to death.

An Iranian prison official later confirmed that over 4,000 Afghan
nationals are being held in Iranian jails. He admitted it was possible
that the figure of 3,000 Afghans on death row was accurate since the
majority of the prisoners were convicted of drugs-related charges.

In Iran, trafficking in more than specified amounts of various
illegal drugs carries a mandatory death sentence. Amnesty
International recognizes that Iran faces serious social, security and
economic problems relating to drug-trafficking, but believes that heavy
reliance on the use of the death penalty to combat drug-trafficking is
misguided, ineffectual and an affront to human rights.

"Sadly, these numbers only illustrate the extent to which the
Iranian authorities misguidedly resort to the death penalty. Our
concerns are compounded by the serious shortcomings of the Iranian
criminal justice system and discrimination against Afghans in Iran,"
said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.


UN human rights experts have concluded that the death penalty for
drug-related offences fails to meet the condition of "most serious
crime", under which the death penalty may be imposed. In addition, the
UN has repeatedly urged member states to be transparent regarding the
application of the death penalty.

Amnesty International has for decades documented shortcomings in the
administration of justice in Iran and fair guarantees are routinely
flouted. Detainees are frequently held incommunicado for prolonged
periods - which puts them at higher risk of torture and other
ill-treatment - are often denied access to a lawyer and forced to
"confess" under duress.

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.