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HRW Raises Alarm over "Dramatic" Surge in Iran Executions

May 12, 2023
2 min read
HRW Raises Alarm over "Dramatic" Surge in Iran Executions

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urges the international community to condemn the Iranian authorities’ "dramatic escalation" of executions in recent weeks, calling it a "serious violation of the right to life."

At least 60 people have been executed across the country since late April after unfair trials or for charges that under international law should not result in the death penalty, the New-York-based human rights group said in a statement on May 12.

Many of those executed recently were convicted of drug-related charges. They also include an Iranian-Swedish national executed on alleged terror-related charges and two Iranians accused of “blasphemy."  

"Iranian authorities are apparently using executions, an inhumane punishment, following unfair trials as a show of force against its own people, who are demanding fundamental change,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at HRW. “The international community should unequivocally condemn this terrifying trend and press Iranian officials to halt these executions.”

The Islamic Republic, one of the world’s top executioners, executed at least 582 people last year, the highest number since 2015 and well above the 333 recorded in 2021, two non-governmental organizations, Iran Human Rights and Together Against the Death Penalty, said in a joint report in April.

But the pace of executions has been even more intense in 2023, with IHR now counting at least 218 executions so far this year.

Rights groups accuse the Islamic Republic of using the death penalty as a means to intimidate Iranians after nationwide protests erupted in September 2022 following the death in custody of 22-year old Mahsa Amini.

Campaigners have warned that members of ethnic minorities -- in particular the Baluch minority, who unlike most Iranian are mostly Sunni -- have been disproportionately targeted by the spate of executions.

According to Haalvsh, a group that focuses on the situation of human rights in Sistan and Baluchistan, home to Iran's Baluch minority, at least 18 men and two women were executed on drug and trafficking-related charges in the province between April 29 and May 4 alone.

HRW pointed out that under article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified, the death penalty may be applied in countries that still retain capital punishment only for the “most serious crimes.” 

The UN Human Rights Committee has said that drug offenses are not among the “most serious crimes,” and that the use of the death penalty for such crimes violates international law, it added. 



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