For over four decades, Iran has been one of the few countries to carry out executions publicly. Public executions have been repeatedly criticised by the international community and domestic civil society in Iran. Both the UN Secretary General and the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran have expressed concern about the continued practice of public executions. During Iran’s second UPR, the government rejected recommendations aimed at ending public executions. Criticism against the Islamic Republic’s practice of public executions has also been emphasised in the reports of the Special Rapporteur.
Following massive media attention and international pressure in 2007-2008, then Head of Judiciary, Mahmoud Shahroudi issued an order calling for limitation in the use of public executions. Consequently, the number of public executions in 2008-2010 were relatively lower than the previous years. However, following the post-election protests of 2009, the number of public executions increased dramatically after 2010, reaching an annual average of 50 to 60 between 2011-2015. With increased international focus again, the number of public executions decreased to 33 in 2016, 31 in 2017 and then 13 in 2018 and 2019. Public executions dropped significantly during COVID-19 pandemics, with one execution reported in 2020 and none in 2021.
The diagram above shows public executions since 2008. The number of public executions in 2020 was significantly lower due to COVID-19 pandemics restrictions, and no public executions were recorded in 2021.
First public execution in two years
2021 was the first year in over a decade that no public executions were carried out by the Islamic Republic. This followed 2020 when only one execution was recorded which was the lowest number since 2016 when Iran Human Rights started its systematic monitoring of executions in Iran. We have no indication that the decline in the number of public executions were the result of policy change, but rather a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
On March 28, Hamshahri Online reported that two men identified as 38-year-old Mohammad Ghaedi and 25-year-old Sadegh Mahmoudi, had been sentenced to public execution at the location of the murder of an officer by a preliminary court in Isfahan province. The alleged murder was reported to have taken place in November 2021.
On April 10, IRIB reported that an unnamed man had been sentenced to public execution for the murder of another officer in Lorestan. The alleged murder is said to have taken place in December 2021.
Dariush Rahimi was the fourth man to be sentenced to public execution for the murder of a policeman on May 18. Khorasan newspaper reported that Branch 5 of Khorasan Razavi’s First Tier Criminal Court had issued the verdict.
On March 18, Afghan-nationals, Mohammad Ramez Rashidi and Naeim Hashem Ghotali were sentenced to public execution for charges of efsad-fil-arz and baghy by Branch One of the Fars Revolutionary Court.
On July 12, the Supreme Court upheld the public execution of Iman Sabzikar for the murder of another policeman.. The 28-year-old construction worker was publicly executed at the location of the alleged murder in Shiraz on July 23, making it the first public execution in two years. The photo of his lifeless body was shared by official media outlets.
On December 12, protester Majidreza Rahnavard was publicly hanged at the location of his alleged crime in Mashhad.
According to a survey commissioned by Iran Human Rights and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty in 2020, more than 86% of the 20,000 participants living in Iran said that they are opposed to public executions.