Executions for Murder Charges in 2023

March 15, 2024, 2:42 p.m.


This is an extract from the 2023 Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran. To read the full report, please click here.

As murder is specifically punished under qisas laws, the IPC does not explicitly state that convicted murderers are subject to the death penalty but rather to qisas, or “retribution-in-kind”. The law effectively puts the responsibility for executions for murder in the hands of the victim’s family or next of kin. Qisas death sentences are also imposed for juvenile offenders as, according to Sharia, the age of criminal responsibility for girls is 9 and for boys 15 lunar years. Furthermore, the death penalty is generally subject to discriminatory application based on gender, ethnicity and religion.[1], [2]

In addition to the inequality of citizens before the law, there are countless reports of violations of due process in qisas cases. Examples include the use of torture to extract confessions, summary trials without sufficient time to conduct independent investigation of the evidence and ineffective counsel.



The 282 qisas executions in 2023 include a variety of cases, including two protesters, all of which involve defendants being denied their rights to due process and a fair trial. The execution of juvenile offenders and women can be found in “Execution Categories” on page 81 of the report.



Hamed Mousavi was 19 when he was arrested for the accidental murder of his wife. He had thought there were no bullets in the rifle when he pointed it at his wife. “I was in love with my wife, it was a joke and I never wanted to lose my wife.” He was transferred from the youth ward and executed in Ardabil Central Prison on 4 May 2023.[3]



Saeed Najafi was arrested for murder in 2018 and subjected to torture for four months in police custody. “He said he confessed under torture and was under medical care as a result of the torture,” an informed source told IHRNGO. Saeed was 28 years old when he was executed in Kermanshah Central Prison on 17 May 2023.[4]



Hemen Mostafayi, a 33-year-old Kurdish man, was arrested in 2013 and subjected to months of severe torture to force self-incriminating confessions to the murder of an IRGC officer. He had previously been transferred for execution in December 2020 which was postponed due to backlash. Hemen was executed in Sanandaj Central Prison on 21 June 2023.[5]



Mehdi Baboli-Bahmaei was arrested and sentenced to qisas for a death caused by a car accident. He was executed in Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz on 1 August 2023.[6]



Shouresh (Gholamreza) Morovati was arrested for a murder committed during an armed robbery in 2009 and sentenced to qisas. He had escaped prison during the unrest at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, due to the authorities’ failure to take effective measures in prisons. Upon rearrest, he was subjected to months of torture in the Sanandaj detention centre, the signs of which were still on his body when he was executed in Sanandaj Central Prison on 22 August 2023.[7]



According to data gathered by Iran Human Rights, at least 2,431 qisas executions were carried out between 2010 and 2023. The diagram below shows the trend of qisas executions during this period.


The number of qisas executions, which was relatively low between 2010 and 2012, increased dramatically in 2013 and has remained at a high level since. This coincides with growing international criticism of Iran’s drug-related executions. In 2023, at least 282 people were subjected to qisas executions.



Formerly known as Gohardasht Prison, Rajai Shahr Prison was not only the site of thousands of political executions in the bloody decade of the 1980s and thereafter, but has been specifically the qisas capital in the last eight years. In April 2023, Ejei announced the closure of the prison, with evacuation set to begin in July. According to informed IHRNGO sources, “Prison authorities told the prisoners that the prison had been sold for 10,000 billion tomans (€200 million) without naming the buyer and would soon be evacuated.” The closure is part of the intentional and systematic efforts by Islamic Republic authorities to erase all traces of the crimes they have committed at the prison throughout their years in power, particularly that of the 1988 prison massacre. The closure and planned demolition took place after a Swedish court sentenced Hamid Noury to life imprisonment for his role in the 1988 Massacre of political prisoners in Gohardasht Prison.[8] The last executions at the prison took place on 12 July 2023.[9] Following its closure, most prisoners were transferred to Ghezelhesar Prison and executions for the Tehran/Alborz area were moved to Karaj Penitentiary and Ghezelhesar Prison. The latter, which is also scheduled to be closed, was the prison with the highest number of executions (85) in 2023. The most number of qisas executions were carried out in Alborz/Tehran provinces in 2023 (35 in Ghezelhesar Prison, 21 in Rajai Shahr Prison, 7 in Karaj Penitentiary).



According to the IPC, murder is punished by qisas, where the victim’s next of kin can demand a retribution death sentence. But they can also demand diya (blood money) instead of retribution or can simply grant forgiveness. The Head of Judiciary sets an annual indicative amount for diya based on inflation and other considerations, but the victim’s family can choose their own amount. They can demand a lower or higher amount than the judiciary’s indicative number but crucially, no upper limit is set. The diya indicative amounts, which are determined every March, were set at 900 million tomans (€18,000) for a Muslim man and 450 million tomans (€9,000) for a Muslim woman in March 2022. The amount set by families is usually higher than the indicative amount and even the indicative amount is higher than what most families can afford.

Iran Human Rights has collected forgiveness reports since 2015. According to the reports gathered in the past nine years, the families of murder victims who chose forgiveness or diya for murder convicts outnumber those who chose the death penalty.

For the sake of simplicity, we will use the term forgiveness in the following section, regardless of whether there has been a demand for diya or not.



As with execution numbers, not all forgiveness cases are reported by the Iranian media. Based on reports by the Iranian media and, to a lesser extent, through its own network inside Iran, Iran Human Rights has identified 857 forgiveness cases, compared to 624 cases in 2022, 705 cases in 2021 and 662 cases in 2020.


As in the previous six years, the forgiveness cases outnumbered those of implemented qisas executions in 2023. The actual numbers for both forgiveness and qisas death sentences are believed to be higher. IHRNGO estimates that the number of forgiveness cases might be several times higher than the numbers presented in this report.

The increasing trend of forgiveness in Iran correlates with a survey conducted for Iran Human Rights and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) in September 2020, which found that the majority of people prefer alternative punishments to the qisas death penalty for murder victims.[10] Iranian authorities assert that qisas is the right of the plaintiff (the victim’s family/next of kin) and that most qisas executions take place upon the plaintiff’s request. However, when questioned about their preferred punishment if an immediate family member was murdered, only 21.5% of respondents chose qisas, while more than 50% preferred alternative punishments such as imprisonment.



A comparison of the number of implemented qisas death sentences and forgiveness cases in 2023.


The diagram above shows the monthly breakdown of implemented qisas death sentences compared to forgiveness cases. Forgiveness cases outnumber those of qisas executions throughout the year.



In 2023, Iran Human Rights recorded forgiveness cases in all 31 provinces in Iran. In comparison, qisas death sentences were reported in 26 of the provinces. Qisas executions only outnumbered forgiveness cases in 4 provinces and in one, the numbers were equal.

The number of qisas executions were higher than forgiveness in only four provinces, while the forgiveness numbers were higher than qisas executions in the rest of the provinces except one where they were equal. The number of forgiveness cases in Khuzestan was around 22 times higher than the qisas numbers.



[1] IHR and ECPM, Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran - 2013, p. 11, https://www.ecpm.org/app/uploads/2022/08/Rapport-Iran-2013.pdf

[2] See page XX of this report.

[3] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/5860/

[4] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/5936/

[5] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/6009/

[6] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/6119/

[7] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/6163/

[8] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/6130/

[9] Fatemeh Yousefabadi and two unidentified men were executed on 12 July: https://iranhr.net/en/articles/6051/ and https://iranhr.net/en/articles/6056/

[10] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/4458/