A noose is seen as people hold Iranian flags during a protest on the day of the Munich Security Conference, in Munich, Germany February 17, 2023.

Iran Hanged 834 People In 2023, Rights Groups Report

Wednesday, 03/06/2024

Iran executed at least 834 people last year, a new record for the regime since 2015 as capital punishment is surging in the country, two rights groups said Tuesday.

The annual report published by the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO) and Paris-based Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM), indicates that the executions were up some 43 percent in comparison with the figure in 2022. It is only the second time in two decades that over 800 executions were recorded in a year, after 972 executions in 2015. 

The numbers coincide with a report released in January from the United Nations citing 834 executions in 2023, also suggesting the number could be more. A statement claimed it was an "unprecedented rise" which saw "at least" 834 people executed, including eight associated with the nationwide protests.

According to the latest rights groups' report, 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. Iran also violated international obligations by executing juvenile offenders, with at least two juveniles put to death, one of whom was 17 at the time of execution. At least 22 women were executed, marking the highest number in the past decade.

The majority of those executed were convicted of drug-related offenses. However, the report also said that eight protesters were executed in 2023 after being convicted in "grossly unfair trials" that lacked due process. The rights groups said that the surge in executions was aimed at intimidating the Iranian people against further protests following the nationwide uprising that erupted in 2022 after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was killed in police custody after she was arrested for “improper” hijab by the country’s morality police. At least two people were executed for "insulting the Islam prophet.” 

Members of ethnic minorities, notably the Sunni Baluch from the southeast of Iran, are "grossly overrepresented amongst those executed" on drug-related charges, the report said. At least 167 members of the Baluch minority were executed in total, accounting for 20 percent of the total executions in 2023, even though the minority accounts for only around five percent of Iran's population.

The report noted that the increase in executions in Iran is part of a broader pattern of human rights abuses by the government. The report claimed that the lack of international attention to the human rights situation in Iran has emboldened the regime to continue its crackdown on dissent. 

Urging the international community to take action to pressure Iran to end its use of the death penalty, the groups also called for an X (formerly twitter) campaign against the death penalty in Iran with the hashtag #StopExecutionsInIran. 

The campaigners also pointed out that Iran executed at least 176 people in the two months following the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7, taking advantage of the global attention to the war. “The average number of daily executions rose from 2 before the onset of the war in Gaza to an average of 3-4 executions per day during the war," 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." 

The Iranian government has defended its use of the death penalty, saying that it is a necessary deterrent to crime. However, human rights groups say that the death penalty is often used as a tool of political repression.

Amiry-Moghaddam said, “The inconsistency in the international community’s reaction to the executions in Iran is unfortunate and sends the wrong signal to the authorities.”

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