A report issued by NGOs Iran Human Rights and Together Against Death Penalty raised the grim statistics of death penalties and executions in the Islamic Republic during 2023. According to the report, at least 834 executions were documented, marking a troubling 43% increase from the previous year’s count of 582.

What is even more shocking is that only 15% of these executions were announced by official sources, a stark contrast to the 33% average between 2018 and 2020. The remaining 85%, totaling 709 executions, occurred without any formal acknowledgment from authorities, shrouding these acts in secrecy and raising concerns about transparency in the justice system.

According to the report, among those executed, a staggering 56% faced death for drug-related charges, a significant uptick from previous years. The relentless crackdown on drug offenses led to the loss of 471 lives, with a mere 5% of these executions officially disclosed.

Additionally, murder charges accounted for 33.8% of all executions, while security-related offenses, including acts deemed as “enmity against God” (moharabeh), “armed rebellion against the Islamic ruler” (baghy), and “corruption on earth” (efsad-fil-arz) claimed the lives of 39 individuals, including protesters. Finally, 2.4% were given for rape and sexual assault; while blasphemy and adultery charges represented less than 1% of the executions carried out during the year.
Iran performs public executions

The report also exposed the fact that executions extended beyond traditional methods, as seven individuals met their fate in public spaces. Women, too, were not spared, with at least 22 facing the ultimate punishment – a figure not seen since 2013. Disturbingly, executions for blasphemy, adultery, and rape charges highlight the breadth of offenses punishable by death, raising questions about the fairness and proportionality of such sentences.

The Islamic Republic’s history of executing protesters has drawn scrutiny, particularly in recent years following the emergence of protests in 2020 sparked by nationwide demonstrations from 2016 to 2019. Notable cases include Mostafa Salehi and Navid Afkari, sentenced to death on disputed charges of ‘moharebeh’ and murder but executed for the latter, amidst public outcry and international pressure leading to the release of other known protesters on death row.

despite this, some November 2019 protesters remain at risk, with ongoing executions such as those of Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard in December 2022 and eight more in 2023 for security-related and murder charges. Information on these cases has been opaque, often accompanied by disinformation and threats to families, with protesters subjected to torture for confessions.

Legal proceedings have lacked due process, with protesters denied access to lawyers and facing show trials. The charges, mostly security-related or murder, have been contested, with international condemnation mounting, notably exemplified by a resolution from the EU Parliament in January 2023 denouncing the death sentences and executions of peaceful protesters in Iran and demanding an immediate halt to such actions.

For the past 45 years, Iran has stood out as one of the few nations carrying out executions in public spaces, a practice repeatedly condemned by both the international community and domestic civil society within Iran. The UN Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran have voiced concerns about this ongoing practice, with the government rejecting recommendations to cease public executions during Iran’s second Universal Periodic Review.

Despite a brief reduction in such executions following a directive from then-head of judiciary Mahmoud Shahroudi in 2007-2008, the numbers surged after the 2009 post-election protests, averaging between 50 and 60 annually from 2011 to 2015. International scrutiny led to a decline in public executions, with 33 reported in 2016, 31 in 2017, and only 13 in both 2018 and 2019. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, public executions dropped further, with one reported in 2020 and none in 2021, before resuming in 2022 with two cases. However, in 2023, the number rose significantly, with seven public executions recorded, indicating a concerning reversal in the trend.
Lack of transparency about the amount of executions or the reason

A significant portion of executions in Iran, totaling at least 709 cases, were not officially announced, constituting 85% of the total. Among these unannounced executions, only 5% of the 471 cases related to drug offenses were disclosed by official sources, despite such charges representing 63% of the unannounced executions. Murder charges accounted for 31% of these unreported executions.

Tehran/Alborz provinces recorded the highest number of unannounced executions at 128, followed by Kerman with 66 and Sistan and Baluchistan with 62 cases. Shockingly, at least 30 individuals were secretly executed without notifying their families or lawyers, all of whom were Baluch minorities, highlighting a concerning lack of transparency and due process in Iran’s legal system.

The report urges the international community to prioritize addressing human rights violations and Iran’s adherence to its treaty obligations in future negotiations, support UN mandates focused on human rights in Iran, and push for Iran’s ratification of key international conventions against torture and inhumane treatment.

Other recommendations include pressuring Iran to end public executions, abolish the death penalty for lesser crimes, and halt the execution of minors. Furthermore, the international community is encouraged to condition bilateral and UN funding on Iran’s compliance with human rights standards, ensuring that international cooperation does not support human rights violations.

finally, the report also calls on Iran to immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty, ratify international conventions against torture, and enhance cooperation with UN human rights bodies by allowing access to and providing necessary information. It also recommends that Iran ensures judiciary independence through structural reforms, dismantles Revolutionary Courts, and guarantees fair trial rights in line with international standards. Finally, it calls on Iran to be transparent about death sentences and executions, allow open debates on the death penalty, and release all political prisoners.

Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO) is an independent and nonpartisan human rights NGO founded by Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam in 2005. It is registered as an international human rights organization in Norway and monitors, documents, and reports on serious human rights violations in the Islamic Republic.

According to Amiry-Moghaddam, an Iranian-Norwegian scientist and human rights activist who serves as chair and spokesperson, the organization enjoys a broad network inside the country and is thus able to present a more accurate picture of human rights violations, including the death penalty and bloody crackdown on the protests. Its reports are used as points of reference for the international community and the UN.

“Our aim by documenting and publishing such reports is to create awareness, promote stronger international reactions to the violations of the Islamic Republic, and eventually hold the country’s leaders accountable for the atrocities they commit,” he said.

“The digits in this report are staggering. At least 834 executions, which means 259 more executions than in 2022, and 500 more executions compared to 2021,” the NGO founder said. “This is shocking, horrifying and unprecedented. We also exposed the sad fact that most of those executed belong to the poor and marginalized groups of Iranian society.”

There is one positive part in the report, Amiry-Moghaddam added. “More than 857 families of murder victims choose forgiveness and diya (blood money) instead of the qisas death penalty (an eye for an eye). This outnumbers by a large amount the qisas cases that ended in the death penalty. We also identified an increasing engagement of ordinary Iranians in the fight for the abolition of the death penalty, which is encouraging.

“I hope the report will contribute to raising the political cost of the executions for the Iranian regime,” he concluded. “This will be made possible by stronger international reactions and by increasing the engagement of ordinary citizens in this struggle.”

Source » jpost