Iran’s prisons have been “transformed into sites of mass killings”, with the number of executions hitting an eight-year high in 2023, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

Some 853 people were executed last year – including five boys under 18 – nearly double the number of total executions in 2021, showing that the death penalty is being “weaponised” to suppress dissent, concludes the human rights advocacy group.

That trend looks set to continue, with at least 95 known executions already up to March 20 this year. As the regime keeps tight control over such information, Amnesty believes that the true number of executions is likely higher.

“Protesters, dissidents and members of oppressed ethnic minorities are among those executed as the authorities have weaponised the death penalty in an orchestrated bid to sow fear among the public and suppress dissent,” said Diana Eltahaway, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director.

More than 60 per cent of the death sentences were issued by Iran’s revolutionary courts, which were established to try opponents of the regime, and lack independence as they operate under the spectre of the country’s security and intelligence bodies.

Those courts “repeatedly rely on torture-tainted ‘confessions’ to convict and sentence people to death,” noted Amnesty.

Iran also executed at least five minors in 2023, all teenage boys who were below the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

One shocking case highlighted was that of Hamidreza Azari, a minor at 17 years of age at the time of execution. Mr Azari was hanged in Sabzevar prison last November, after he gave a “forced confession” aired on state media.

State media also misrepresented his age as 18 “to evade accountability,” said Amnesty.

Iran is one of the few countries in the world that uses the death penalty for juvenile offenders under 18, even though such executions are prohibited by international law.

Amnesty has further identified more than 80 people on death row who were under 18 at the time of the alleged crime, with some sitting on death row for more than a decade.

Death penalties have also disproportionately affected the suppressed Baluchi ethnic minority, which accounted for one-third of drug-related executions in Iran, though the group makes up only five per cent of the country’s population.

Executions have soared in Iran as the authorities wage a severe crackdown in the aftermath of nationwide mass protests in late 2022, which posed one of the biggest challenges to Tehran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The 2022 demonstrations were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, believed to have been tortured to death while held in custody by Iran’s morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf improperly.

Iran is the world’s second most-prolific in carrying out executions after China.

The Iranian ministry of foreign affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source » yahoo