NCRI – The Iranian authorities are believed to have executed an astonishing 694 people between 1 January and 15 July 2015, said Amnesty International today, in an unprecedented spike in executions in the country.
“This is equivalent to executing more than three people per day. At this shocking pace, Iran is set to surpass the total number of executions in the country recorded by Amnesty International for the whole of last year,” the international human rights group said.
“Iran’s staggering execution toll for the first half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“If Iran’s authorities maintain this horrifying execution rate we are likely to see more than 1,000 state-sanctioned deaths by the year’s end.”
The announcement by Amnesty continued: “The surge in executions reveals just how out of step Iran is with the rest of the world when it comes to the use of the death penalty – 140 countries worldwide have now rejected its use in law or practice. Already this year three more countries have repealed the death penalty completely.”
“Executions in Iran did not even stop during the holy month of Ramadan. In a departure from established practice, at least four people were executed over the past month.”
“While Amnesty International opposes the use of the death penalty unconditionally and in all cases, death sentences in Iran are particularly disturbing because they are invariably imposed by courts that are completely lacking in independence and impartiality. They are imposed either for vaguely worded or overly broad offences, or acts that should not be criminalized at all, let alone attract the death penalty. Trials in Iran are deeply flawed, detainees are often denied access to lawyers in the investigative stage, and there are inadequate procedures for appeal, pardon and commutation.”
Said Boumedouha said: “The Iranian authorities should be ashamed of executing hundreds of people with complete disregard for the basic safeguards of due process,”.
“The use of the death penalty is always abhorrent, but it raises additional concerns in a country like Iran where trials are blatantly unfair.”
“For years, Iranian authorities have used the death penalty to spread a climate of fear in a misguided effort to combat drug trafficking, yet there is not a shred of evidence to show that this is an effective method of tackling crime,” said Said Boumedouha.
Many of those convicted of drug-related offences come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Their cases are rarely publicized. In a letter circulated online in June, 54 prisoners held on death row in Ghezel Hesar prison near Tehran described their plight:
“We are the victims of a state of hunger, poverty and misery, hurled down into the hollows of perdition by force and without our will… If we had jobs, if we did not need help, if we could turn our lives around and stop our children from going hungry, why should we have gone down a path that guaranteed us our death?”
Amnesty International continued: “Among those executed in Iran are also members of ethnic and religious minorities convicted of ‘enmity against God’ and ‘corruption on earth’ including Kurdish political prisoners and Sunni Muslims.”
“Currently, based on monitoring work done by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, several thousand people are believed to be on death row in Iran. The Iranian authorities have said that 80% of those awaiting execution are convicted of drug-related offences. They have not, however, provided an exact number.”
“It is especially harrowing that there is no end in sight for this theatre of cruelty with Iran’s gallows awaiting thousands more death row prisoners,” said Said Boumedouha.
Prisoners in Iran are often left languishing on death row, wondering each day if it will be their last, the human rights group said. “In many cases they are notified of their execution only a few hours beforehand and in some cases, families learn about the fate of their loved ones days, if not weeks, later.”
“Each year the Iranian authorities acknowledge a certain number of judicial executions. However, many more judicial executions are carried out but not acknowledged.”
“As of 15 July 2015, the Iranian authorities had officially acknowledged 246 executions this year but Amnesty International has received credible reports of a further 448 executions carried out in this time period. In 2014, 289 people were executed according to official sources but credible reports suggested that the real figure was at least 743.”