Iran executed at least 582 people in 2022, 75 percent more people than the previous year, two rights groups say, denouncing an "execution machine" aimed to “spread fear among people” as anti-government protests swept the country.
Last year’s number of executions was the highest since 2015 and well above the figure of 333 recorded in 2021, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) and France’s Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) said in their “Annual Report of the Death Penalty in Iran 2022.”
Iran has been swept by anti-government protests sparked by the September 2022 death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, who had been detained for allegedly wearing her headscarf improperly.
The authorities responded to the women-led protest movement with a fierce crackdown in which 520 people were killed and over 20,000 were unlawfully detained. After biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters. At least four young men were hanged in protest-related cases, prompting an international outcry.
IHR director Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam said that while the international reaction was keeping protest-related executions in check, the Islamic Republic was pressing ahead with executions on other charges to intimidate the population.
"...in order to spread fear among people, the authorities have intensified the execution for non-political charges. These are the low-cost victims of the Islamic Republic's execution machine," he added.
According to the report, 100 protesters still risked execution after being sentenced to death or facing charges that carry the death penalty.
The report expressed alarm over a sharp rise in the number of drug-related executions following the eruption of the nationwide protests.
Iran’s 2017 amendments to the anti-narcotics law led to a fall in the number of drug-related executions and in the overall number of executions up to 2021.
More than half of those executed after the start of the protests demanding fundamental economic, social and political changes, and 44 percent of the 582 executions recorded in 2022, had been sentenced to death for drug-related charges.
That’s more than double the number in 2021 and 10 times higher than the number of drug-related executions recorded the previous year.
ECPM director Raphael Chenuil-Hazan said that “lack of reaction” from the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and its donor states to this surge “sends the wrong signal to the Iranian authorities.”
According to the report, the death penalty is “part of the systematic discrimination and extensive repression ethnic minorities of Iran are subjected to."
Members of the mainly Sunni Baluch minority accounted for nearly one-third of all executions across the country, while only representing up to 6 percent of Iran's population.
The numbers of ethnic Kurds and Arabs executed were also disproportionate, especially for drug crimes.
Almost half of all executions -- 288 – were for murder charges, the highest in more than 15 years, the report said.
It said two people were hanged in public. At least three juvenile offenders were among those executed while at least 16 women were hanged.