02 January 2021 :Reprieve, Iran Human Rights and Hands Off Cain are deeply concerned by the Italian Government’s recent pledge to provide counter-narcotics support to the Government of Iran given the high risk that this support will result in death sentences being handed down to alleged drug offenders.
The organizations therefore addressed on 21 December an appeal to the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio to disclose the assistance that the government of Italy is currently providing to Iran in this area, and confirm that no assistance will be provided until the Iranian government conclusively abolishes the death penalty for drug offences.
“Dear Minister Di Maio,
Our organisations are deeply concerned by the Italian Government’s pledge to provide counternarcotics support to the Government of Iran, given the high risk that this support will result in death sentences being handed down to alleged drug offenders. It is particularly worrying that Italy’s support for Iranian drug raids was pledged in the same month Iran confirmed 50 drug related death sentences in one prison alone. We urge you to confirm that Italy will not proceed with this assistance until Iran conclusively abolishes the death penalty for drug related offences.
The Italian Government has historically taken the strongest possible stance against capital punishment, and our organisations have worked closely with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support many individuals facing the death penalty overseas. As recently as September, you hosted an event at the UN General Assembly to mark the introduction of the biennial resolution for a universal moratorium on the use of the death penalty. In your remarks at that event, you confirmed that:
“Italy will remain fully committed to supporting the international campaign for a new universal moratorium on death penalty, with a view to its abolition worldwide… a campaign that concerns the rights and dignity of every human being.”
Given this this strong public opposition to the death penalty, last week we were alarmed to read in the Tehran Times that the Italian Government has pledged to expand its support for Iranian drug raids – raids which routinely lead to alleged drug offenders being sentenced to death and executed. Specifically, the Tehran Times reported that:
“after a meeting with the liaison officer of the anti-narcotics police of Italy Salvatore Labarbera, the chief of the Iranian anti-narcotics police Majid Karimi announced that the level of cooperation between the two countries will be strengthened and increased. The meeting was held in Iran on December 3, during which Labarbera supported the idea of extending the level of existing cooperation and emphasized the need for combating narcotic drugs at the international level as well.”
If Italy proceeds in providing direct counter-narcotics assistance to Iranian drug operations, this will inevitably result in death sentences for alleged drug offenders. According to research by Iran Human Rights, the Iranian Government executed at least 30 drug offenders in 2019.
Iranian courts continue to hand down large numbers of death sentences for drug related offences, and just yesterday Iran Human Rights reported that 50 alleged drug offenders had their death sentences confirmed in Iran’s Urmia Central Prison.
Past research by our organisations has extensively documented and critiqued how counter-narcotics assistance to the Iranian Government directly enables drug raids which result in executions. Reprieve’s report “European Aid for Executions” set out how support for Iran’s “supply reduction” efforts - including assistance for premises, specialist training, the provision of drug detection dogs, and the supply of equipment such as body scanners and night vision goggles – boosted the Iranian Anti-Narcotics Police to carry out hundreds of arrests which lead to capital convictions.
The evidence that European assistance risks enabling Iranian executions has led many European Governments to withhold such aid. Countries which have declined to assist Iranian drug raids on this basis include Germany, Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Norway. Italy’s willingness to provide counter-narcotics assistance to the Iranian Government stands in stark contrast to the principled position taken by other European Governments.
Our organisations have a great deal of respect for the stance Italy has taken in opposing the death penalty worldwide, and it is our hope that in light of recent developments, your Government will follow fellow European Governments in preventing its counter-narcotics aid being used to enable executions.
We respectfully request that you disclose what assistance the Italian Government is currently providing to Iran in this area, and confirm that no further assistance will be provided until the Iranian Government conclusively abolishes the death penalty for drug related offences.
Maya Foa, Co-Executive Director, Reprieve
Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam, Founder, Iran Human Rights
Elisabetta Zamparutti, Treasurer, Hands Off Cain”