HRW: Iran's rights record is 'scary'

June 29, 2012 at 11:59 AM

NEW YORK, June 29 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch described a death sentence in Iran for the consumption of alcohol as a "scary" symbol of the country's human rights legacy.

Two Iranians were given the death penalty early this week for a third-strike offense for drinking alcoholic beverages.

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East program at Human Rights Watch, said Iranian courts are harassing Iranians.

"Sentencing Iranians to death for consuming alcohol is a scary signal of how little Iran's judges value Iranian lives and how casually they can make a decision to end them," she said in a statement from New York.

The rights group states that Iranian law views consumption of alcohol as a violation of Shariah law. A first offense is punishable by 80 lashes though a third offense carries the death penalty.

Iran is suspected of carrying out more than 100 executions this year. The majority of the sentences were handed down for drug-related offenses.

U.N. officials this week criticized Iran for its judicious use of capital punishment. The death penalty, they said, should only be considered for "the most serious crimes."

"Iran's courts apparently have nothing better to do than harass and even kill Iranians for engaging in dubious 'crimes'," said Whitson.

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