‘Alarming’ 25% rise in executions in Iran in 2021, watchdogs say

PARIS (AFP) — Executions in Iran have increased by 25% in 2021, a report by two major NGOs said on Thursday, raising concern about the increase in the number of executions for drug-related offenses and hangings. of at least 17 women.

The pace of executions in Iran has also accelerated following the June election of former hardline justice chief Ebrahim Raisi as president, according to the report by Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) and d Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) in France.

The report urged world powers to negotiate with Iran on reviving the deal on its nuclear program to place the use of capital punishment in the Islamic Republic – which executes more people each year than any country other than China – at the center of the talks.

At least 333 people were executed in 2021, a 25% increase from 267 in 2020, according to the report, based on official media but also sources inside Iran.

Meanwhile, at least 126 executions were on drug-related charges, five times the 2020 figure of 25.

It marked a major reversal in the downward trend in drug-related executions since Iran passed amendments to its anti-narcotics law in 2017 in the face of international pressure.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi outside Tehran, Iran, April 18, 2022. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)

More than 80% of executions were not officially announced, including all those for drug-related offences, he said.

The report “reveals an increase in the number of executions, an alarming increase in the application of death sentences for drug-related offenses and a persistent lack of transparency”, the NGOs said.

“Less control”

IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said he was concerned there was ‘less scrutiny’ of Iran’s rights record as powers focused on concluding positive outcome of the nuclear negotiations.

“There will be no lasting (agreement)…unless the human rights situation in general and the death penalty in particular are at the heart of the negotiations,” he said.

The report says at least 17 women were executed in 2021, compared to 9 in 2020. Twelve were convicted of murder and five of drug-related charges.

Illustrative: A prisoner held in an Iranian prison. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

There are growing concerns about the number of women executed for the murder of a husband or relative who activists believe may have been violent.

He noted the case of a woman, Zahra Esmaili, who shot her husband dead in 2017. He said she was executed in February 2021 and may have had a heart attack before she was hanged after seeing others suffer the same fate before her.

In another case, Maryam Karimi was convicted for the murder of her husband and was hanged in March 2021, with her daughter personally carrying out the execution by pushing the stool away as permitted by Iranian law.

“Tool of Repression”

The report also expressed concern that executions of ethnic minorities also continued to rise in 2021, accounting for a disproportionate number of people hanged.

Baloch minority prisoners accounted for 21% of all executions in 2021, despite making up only 2-6% of Iran’s population, he said.

Most of the prisoners executed on security-related charges belonged to the Arab, Balochi and Kurdish ethnic minorities, he added.

Illustrative: Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. (CC BY-SA 2.0 Ehsan Iran/Wikipedia)

“We are alarmed by the disproportionate number of executions of ethnic minorities as evidenced by this report,” said ECPM director Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan.

In a welcome development, the report says there were no public executions in Iran in 2021 for the first time in a decade, but expresses concern that they could happen again.

“A society regularly exposed to such organized violence has accepted the death penalty as a legal solution, and the death penalty has therefore become a tool of repression in the hands of the government,” said Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, whose films about the impact of the death penalty in Iran have won international awards, wrote in a preface to the report.

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