SA grills Iranian dignitary on ‘excessive’ executions

Iran’s top human rights official, on a visit to South Africa, has blamed his country’s high execution rate on drug trafficking, after being challenged on “excessive” use of the death penalty.

“The number of executions is high because 74% of those executed are of drug traffickers who traffic drugs from Afghanistan to Western European countries,” secretary general of the Iranian Supreme Council for Human Rights, Mohammad Javad Larijani, told reporters in Pretoria.

International Relations Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim earlier raised concerns about human rights in Iran, during his meeting with Larijani.

Some of the issues Ebrahim wanted clarity on included “excessive” use of the death penalty, the stoning to death of a woman, Sakineh Ashtian, and the persecution of religious minorities, in particular the Baha’i.

Larijani said the death penalty would be reviewed only if the West participated in fighting the war against drug trafficking.

“We cannot win this war alone. If Europe is interested in the prevention of the trafficking of drugs, then it should participate in this war.”

The other option was for Iran to ignore drug trafficking.

“We can close our eyes and drug traffickers can pass through Iran and go wherever they want to go and the number of executions in Iran will drop 74%. In fact, it will be very good for our reputation then.”

Ebrahim said he was grateful that Larijani had detailed his council’s and the Iranian government’s efforts to address human right issues in the Islamic republic.

Larijani explained that his “major mission” for the visit was to expand and consolidate the good relations with South Africa. Iran remains South Africa’s major supplier of crude oil.

Larijani spoke of a new era of co-operation on the judicial, cultural and human rights fronts, saying Iran’s interest lay in promoting democracy.

“Iran, as the only major democracy in the Middle East, considers the expansion of democracy and human rights as a pillar of its own policy, domestically and externally.”

Larijani further criticised the Libyan government for ignoring its people’s call for democracy. He said they supported the uprising of the Libyan people.

“They are tyrants, dictators, killing their people who just want democracy.”

He said the reason for the “bond” between South African and Iran was because of both countries. interest in promoting democracy.

Larijani and his delegation were expected to meet with Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana, Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel and National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu, before giving a lecture at the University of Pretoria. — Sapa

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