/ IHRights#Iran: Hossein Amaninejad and Hamed Yavari were executed in Hamedan Central Prison on 11 June. Hossein was arrested… https://t.co/3lnMTwFH6z13 Jun

Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran- 2023

5 Mar

The 16th Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, by Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO) and Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM), reveals that the Iranian authorities intensified their use of the death penalty to instil societal fear in the year following the outbreak of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” nationwide protests. The report documents a staggering total of 834 executions in 2023, representing a 43% increase compared to the previous year. This is the second highest number of documented annual executions in more than 20 years in Iran. 

Full Report (pdf)

Eight protesters were executed in 2023, six of whom were arrested in relation to the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests and sentenced to death in grossly unfair trials without due process. While executions of the protesters led to strong international reactions in the beginning of the year, the executions in the second half of the year failed to elicit the same level of condemnation and backlash. The correlation between lack of international attention and the use of the death penalty by the Islamic Republic was especially evident after the onset of the war in Gaza on 7 October 2023. The average number of daily executions rose from two people before the onset of the war in Gaza to an average of 3-4 executions per day during the war.

Commenting on the report, Iran Human Rights Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “The Iranian regime uses the death penalty to prolong its survival. We are dealing with a regime that is oppressive, corrupt and incompetent to solve people’s daily problems. Instilling societal fear is the regime’s only way to hold on to power, and the death penalty is its most important instrument. Increasing the political cost of the executions by international pressure can slow down the regime’s killing machine. The inconsistency in the international community’s reaction to the executions in Iran is unfortunate and sends the wrong signal to the authorities.” 

In 2023, the Islamic Republic authorities not only intensified the use of the death penalty, but also expanded the scope of charges for which the death penalty was implemented. For the first time in 10 years, the Islamic Republic executed two men for blasphemy and one man for adultery charges. In addition, two dual-nationals were hanged. One of them, the Swedish citizen Habib Asyoud, had been kidnapped by regime agents in Turkey and forcibly transferred to Iran before his sham trial and execution.

Of particular concern is the dramatic escalation in the number of drug-related executions in 2023, which rose to 471 people, more than 18 times higher than the figures recorded in 2020. Those executed for drug charges belong to the most marginalised communities in society, and ethnic minorities, particularly the Baluch, are grossly overrepresented amongst those executed. The report highlights the alarming silence from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in response to this dramatic surge, despite the organisation signing a new cooperation agreement with the Islamic Republic. This lack of condemnation and intervention from a key international body underscores the urgent need for global attention to this critical issue. Commenting on the alarming rise in drug-related executions, ECPM Director Raphael Chenuil-Hazan said: “Lack of reaction by the UNODC and donor countries to the reversal of these reforms sends the wrong signal to the Iranian authorities. Abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences must be a precondition for all future cooperation between the UNODC and Iran on combating drug trafficking.”

In 2023, the number of public hangings in Iran tripled compared to 2022, with seven people being hanged in public spaces, including a beach park. Iranian authorities continued to violate international obligations by executing juvenile offenders, with at least two juveniles put to death, one of whom was 17 at the time of execution. Additionally, at least 22 women were executed, marking the highest number in the past decade. Among those executed was Zarkhatoon Mazarzehi, a 46-year-old Baluch widow and the sole provider for her family. She was sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court on drug-related charges without access to legal representation, despite denying the allegations. All drug charges and security-related charges are under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, which were responsible for imposing the death sentences of 512 (61%) of those executed in 2023. One of those unjustly executed for security charges was the Kurdish political prisoner Mohiyedin Ebrahimi. He was a kolbar (human mule) who was arrested by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces in 2017 after being shot in the leg. His brother had been killed by border forces while also working as a kolbar. In a letter to Iran Human Rights shortly prior to his execution, Mohiyedin wrote that he was tortured to accept bogus charges of firearms possession and membership in political groups, denied access to a lawyer at trial, due process and a fair trial. Mohiyedin was the breadwinner for 12 people, including a physically disabled child and his brother’s family.

In March 2024, at the fifty-fifth session of the UN Human Rights Council, the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFMI) will present its findings on the atrocities committed by the Islamic Republic since the start of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests. The establishment of the FFMI by the UN Human Rights Council was a significant step by the international community to hold Iranian authorities accountable for the grave human rights violations, including the execution of protesters. Impunity and the lack of accountability are among the most important obstacles for improving the human rights situation in Iran. In 2024, the situation of human rights in Iran will be reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the framework of the United Nations Human rights Council. 

With the launch of the 2023 Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, Iran Human Rights and ECPM call on the members of the Human Rights Council to renew the mandates of the FFMI and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and to formulate strong recommandations in the framework of the UPR. The Organisations also call on the international community – in particular the UNODC, States with diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic and all other Member States, to put the death penalty on the top of the agenda in any dialogue with IR representatives, and to play a more active role in supporting the improvement of the human rights situation by promoting the abolition of the death penalty in Iran.