The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has appealed to Iran to stop executions for drug offenses while the country’s parliament discussed a new law that would remove the mandatory death sentence for drug related crimes. 

The appeal comes as 5 men were executed at the weekend in Iran, 3 of them on drug charges. At least 966 people were executed in Iran last year, a high number even for the country that has traditionally used the death penalty for a wide range of crimes.

In January, politicians in the country proposed a law to removed the death penalty for crimes involving drugs, changing the mandatory sentence to live imprisonment instead.

Said High Commissioner Zeid: “There have been encouraging signs from within Iran towards reform of the law, from the judiciary, the executive and the legislature and I hope the new parliament will adopt these changes. But it is unfortunate that executions for drug-related offenses—crimes that clearly do not meet the threshold under international human rights law for application of the death penalty—continue to be carried out in the meantime. Given the broadening recognition in Iran that the death penalty does not deter drug crime and that anti-narcotics laws need to be reformed, I call on Iran to take the important first step of instituting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.”