Use of the death penalty in Iran shot up by 25 per cent in the last year ex-chief justice Ebrahim Raisi became president, an annual survey has found.
At least 333 people were executed in Iran in 2021 compared to 267 in 2020, and 280 the year before the pandemic.
The annual report on the death penalty in Iran, published by Iran Human Rights and Together Against the Death Penalty, also found at least 17 of the condemned were women, and two people were hanged for crimes committed when they were children.
Iran also remained the world’s top executioner last year. “In Iran,” Iran Human Rights director Mahmoud Amiry-Moghaddam said, “we do not have due process. We do not have the independent judiciary. There is systematic use of torture to force confessions.
“In almost all death penalty cases, sentences are issued based on confessions extracted from the prisoner. Basically, the judiciary can sentence anyone to death on any charges if they wish.
“The Islamic Republic’s dreadful human rights and death penalty records are not included in the JCPOA talks, and it seems that the Iranian authorities are under less scrutiny while the negotiations are ongoing.”
At least 126 of the recorded executions, close to 40 percent, were for drug-related charges and 183 were for murder. As in previous years, the Iranian judiciary sentenced a disproportionate number of people from ethnic minority groups to death.
The majority of prisoners executed for security-related charges were ethnic Arabs, Baluchis and Kurds. Baluch prisoners accounted for 21% of all those hanged though they only represent two to six percent of Iran’s population.
ECPM director Raphael Chenuil-Hazan said: “We are alarmed at the disproportionate number of ethnic minority executions as evidenced in this report. This issue has been raised by human rights NGOs, the United Nations Special Rapporteur and the European Parliament, but it still requires more attention by the international community.”
This year some 83.5 percent of the killings were not announced in any way by the authorities. Also in 2021, the parliament passed draft legislation that would allow citizen journalists who report on the death penalty to themselves be sentenced to death.
Concurrently, the report noted, at least 126 people had been put to death in Iranian prisons with little to no reaction from either the European Parliament or the UN.
Some of the deaths occurred in circumstances that will have compounded the trauma to convicts’ families. Arman Abdolali, one of the juvenile offenders, was taken to the gallows seven times in the months prior to his execution. Zahra Esmaili had a fatal heart attack as she watched several men being executed in front of her. Prison guards still hanged her lifeless body.
Executions in Iran reached their peak in 2015, with 972 executions recorded that year before the trend began to drop. The number has now increased slightly again in an atmosphere of heightened secrecy; in the last five years an average of 34 percent of all executions were reported in the Iranian media. This year, the proportion stood at 16.5 percent.
In a survey conducted for Iran Human Rights and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, some 79 percent of Iranians said they would not choose qisas (the death penalty as retribution) if an
immediate family member was murdered. In 2021, there were at least 705 cases of forgiveness rather than see another citizen hang.