Thursday, 7 May 2015

Two Young Men Hanged Publicly in South-Eastern Iran

Iran Human Rights, Match 20, 2015: Two young men were hanged publicly in Jiroft (southeastern Iran), reported the Iranian state media.
One of the prisoners was identified as Asghar, convicted of murdering710505 two sisters, and the other prisoner not identified by name, was convicted of murdering a girl.
The executions were carried out on March 27, said the report.

One Prisoner Hanged Publicly in Central Iran

16 prisoners scheduled to be executed in the coming days.
Iran Human Rights, April 12, 2014: One prisoner was hanged in the city of Mehriz 20141025081034-تتتت(Yazd Province, Central Iran) early Sunday morning April 12, reported the Iranian state media. The prisoner who was not identified by name was convicted of murdering a 9 year old child, said the report.
According to unofficial reports two prisoners were hanged in the prison of Zahedan (Baluchistan Province, Southeastern Iran) Saturday morning, April 11. Several unofficial sources have also reported about transfer of 16 prisoners for execution in Karaj (west of Tehran). These prisoners are scheduled to be executed in the coming days.

Six Prisoners Hanged in Iran

In addition 16 other prisoners were hanged in the Ghezelhesar prison of Karaj, according to unconfirmed reports.evin-small
Iran Human Rights, April 13: Six prisoners have been hanged in two different prisons according to the official Iranian sources.
Official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Hormozgan province (southern Iran) reported that two prisoners identified as “M. Gh.” and “A. A.” were hanged in the prison of Bandar Abbas on Thursday April 9. The prisoners were charged with murder in two separate cases said the report.
The judiciary in Markazi province (central Iran) reported about the execution of four prisoners convicted of drug-related charges on April 12. These prisoners were identified as “Nematollah N.” charged with possession and trafficking of 6950 grams of heroin, “Mohammad L.” for possession of 667 grams of heroin, “Mahmood S.” for trafficking of 20 grams and possession of 880 grams of heroin and “Hamed N.” for possession of 536 grams of the narcotic substance crystal, said the report.

According to unofficial reports 16 prisoners were hanged in the Ghezelhesar prison of Karaj (west of Tehran) early Monday morning April 13. All these prisoners were convicted of drug-related charges. There are no more details available at this moment. 


Iran Human Rights, March 12, 2015: With the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on its way, 36 NGOs are urging the UNHRC Member States to support the resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In a joint letter, representatives of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Iran Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch, as well as Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi call attention to ongoing concerns regarding Iran’s human rights record and outline how the Special Rapporteur’s active engagement has provided crucial support for the work, safety and, in many cases, release of human rights defenders, lawyers and prisoners of conscience in Iran. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran has issued credible, thoroughly researched and well-sourced reports, although the Iranian government continues to deny him access to Iran. Renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate will ensure that human rights in Iran remains a priority globally and for the Council.

The letter is below:
March 12, 2015

To: Member States of the UN Human Rights Council

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned human rights and civil society groups, write to you to urge your government to support the resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran at the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (“the Council”).

The situation in Iran remains one of systemic human rights violations that are deeply rooted in laws, policies, and practices that require the sustained attention of the Council. Renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate will ensure that human rights in Iran remain a priority globally and for the Council. As a member of the Council, your government is entrusted with the responsibility to promote and protect human rights. This responsibility includes pressing the Iranian authorities to ensure that the people of Iran enjoy the human rights enshrined in the human rights treaties to which the country is party and to which they are entitled. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur provides an effective and constructive means for the Council to promote and protect these rights.

As your government is aware, the Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran has issued credible, thoroughly researched and well-sourced reports, although the Iranian government continues to deny him access to Iran. The reports include testimonies and other first-hand information gathered from sources inside Iran using modern technologies and information gathered from credible non-governmental organizations located outside the country. The Special Rapporteur has produced concrete recommendations for action by the Iranian government to meet its legal obligations and respect Iran’s international human rights commitments. On the international stage, these reports focus attention on a range of ongoing human rights challenges in Iran, including some of those enumerated in the enclosed Facts and Figures sheet.

The Special Rapporteur’s active engagement has encouraged and helped galvanize Iranian civil society inside and outside the country. His actions in pursuance of his mandate have contributed to the domestic debate on human rights in Iran. Most importantly, the Special Rapporteur has also provided crucial support for the work, safety and, in many cases, release of human rights defenders, lawyers and prisoners of conscience. In his reports and joint press statements with other Special Procedures, the Special Rapporteur has raised concerns over many individual cases, some of which have thereafter seen tangible improvements in state behavior. Renewing the Special Rapporteur’s mandate would send a strong message to people inside Iran that the international community continues to have concern for their rights.

Iran’s most recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which took place on 31 October 2014 and saw the international community largely reiterate recommendations that it had made to the Iranian government during the previous UPR in 2010, also underscored the value of the Special Rapporteur’s work and the importance of renewing his mandate.

We urge your government to actively participate in the upcoming interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, to encourage the Iranian authorities to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, and to strongly support the renewal of his mandate as a means to contribute concretely to the promotion and the protection of human rights in Iran.


Roya Boroumand, Executive Director
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation

Robin Phillips, Executive Director
The Advocates for Human Rights

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Middle East North Africa Programme
Amnesty International

Kamran Ashtary, Executive Director
Arseh Sevom

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director

Md. Ashrafuzzaman, Liaison Officer
Asian Legal Resource Center

Alirza Quluncu, Representative
The Association for Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran

Duman Radmehr, Executive Director
Association for Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran

Taimoor Aliassi, UN Representative
Association pour les Droits Humains au Kurdistan d’Iran-Genève (KMMK-G)

Diane Ala’i, Representative to the United Nations
Bahá’í International Community

Mansoor Bibak, Co-Director
Balochistan Human Rights Group

Renate Bloem, UN Geneva Representative

Steering Committee
Committee of Human Rights Reporters

Joel Simon, Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists

Juana Kweitel, Program Director
Conectas Direitos Humanos

Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Founder and President
Center for Supporters of Human Rights

Hassan Shire, Executive Director
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, Executive Director
Ensemble Contre La Peine de Mort (ECPM)

Ibrahim Al Arabi, Executive Director
European Ahwazi Human Rights Organisation

Keyvan Rafiee, Executive Director
Human Rights Activists in Iran

Sarah Leah Whitson, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division
Human Rights Watch

Mani Mostofi, Director
Impact Iran

Mohammad Nayyeri, Director
Insight Iran

Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

Jessica Stern, Executive Director
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Phil Lynch, Director
International Service for Human Rights

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Executive Director
Iran Human Rights

Saghi Ghahraman, President
Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO)

Shadi Sadr, Co-Director
Justice for Iran

Tara Fatehi, Spokesperson
The Kurdistan Human Rights Network

Mehrangiz Kar, Chairperson
Siamak Pourzand Foundation

Mahmood Enayat, Director
Small Media

Hassan Nayeb Hashem, Representative to the Human Rights Council in Geneva
Südwind: All Human Rights for All in Iran

Firuzeh Mahmoudi, Executive Director
United for Iran

Mohammad Mostafaei, Directeur
Universal Tolerance

Shadi Amin, Coordinator
6Rang: Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network 

FACT SHEET: 2015 update on the human rights situation in Iran

Iran faces a chronic situation in which serious violations of human rights continue to be perpetrated by the authorities, particularly Iran’s security, intelligence and judiciary authorities. Below are some key indicators.

Death penalty
Iran has had the highest per capita execution rate in the world for several years in a row. It retains the death penalty for a wide range of offences, including broad and ill- defined crimes such as “sowing corruption on earth,” as well as  some offences that do not constitute “most serious crimes” under international law.  The number of executions in the country has reportedly increased in recent years, from at least 580 executions in 2012, to 687 executions in 2013, to753 executions in 2014. Some executions are carried out in public.

In many cases, courts imposed death sentences after proceedings that failed to respect international fair trial standards, including by accepting as evidence “confessions” elicited under torture or other ill-treatment. Detainees on death row were frequently denied access to legal counsel during pre-trial investigations.

Scores of juvenile offenders, including some sentenced in previous years for crimes committed under the age of 18, remain on death row; others were executed. The revised Islamic Penal Code allows the execution of juvenile offenders for qesas (retribution) and hodoud (offences carrying fixed penalties prescribed by Islamic law), unless a judge determines that the offender did not understand the nature of the crime or its consequences, or the offender’s mental capacity is in doubt. Saman Naseem, who was arrested when aged 17, was sentenced to death on charges of Moharebeh (“waging war against God”) and Ifsad Fil Arz (“corruption on earth”) for his alleged involvement in armed activities. Security authorities allegedly tortured him in detention to force a “confession.” Rights group Iran Human Rights identified at least 14 executions in 2014 of persons who may have been under the age of 18 at the time of the crimes for which they were convicted.

The revised Islamic Penal Code also retains the penalty of stoning to death for the offense of adultery. At least one stoning sentence was reported to have been issued in Ghaemshahr, Mazandaran province in July 2014. No execution by stoning has been reported since 2009.

Women’s rights
Despite minor improvements under President Rouhani’s administration, such as the lifting of many gender-based quotas in universities, women in Iran remain subject to widespread and systematic discrimination in law and practice. Official policies aimed at restricting female employment and encouraging women to stay at home and pursue “traditional” roles as wives and mothers continued. While women occupy about half of all university student places, their economic participation in Iran is only 12.8%, five times lower than men, according to government figures. Personal status laws that accord women subordinate status to men in matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance remain in force.

Two population-related draft bills that remain under parliamentary consideration threaten to reduce women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services. One draft bill proposes to prevent surgical procedures that permanently prevent pregnancies and imposes criminal punishments on health professionals who preform such procedures. The other bill seeks to reduce divorces and remove family disputes from the courts in favor of mediation.

A peaceful gathering in front of the Iranian Parliament in Tehran on October 22, 2014, during which demonstrators demanded a government response to a spate of acid attacks against girls and women across Iran, ended with the beating and arrest of some of the protesters by security agents. Authorities forcibly dispersed another gathering outside the Iranian Judiciary building in Isfahan, with plainclothes agents using batons and tear gas against the demonstrators. Authorities held women’s rights activist Mahdieh Golroo, one of the participants arrested after attending the peaceful protest outside the parliament building, for three months, only releasing her on bail on January 27, 2015.

Rights of minorities
Religious and ethnic minorities continue to face violations of their rights, both in law and policy. Members of the Bahá’í faith are systematically deprived of the rights to university education, state employment and business licenses, and to hold religious gatherings. In January 2015, at least 100 Bahá’í were imprisoned for their religious and community activity. Christian converts, including those involved in informal house churches, face arrest and imprisonment. At least five members of the Sufi Muslim Gonabadi Dervish community remain behind bars, for the peaceful exercise of their basic rights.

Despite constitutional guarantees of equality, members of ethnic minorities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azeri Turks, Baluch, Kurds, and Turkmen, continue to face a range of discriminatory laws and practices, affecting their access to basic services such as housing, clean water and sanitation, employment and education. Despite some minor opening, the Iranian authorities continue to deny ethnic minority communities the right to learn their mother language, particularly at the early stage in education.  Members of minority groups, particularly those who seek greater recognition of their cultural and linguistic rights, face persecution, including arrest and imprisonment. Five members of Yeni GAMOH, an Iran-based Azerbaijani-Turkish organization, are serving nine years in prison reportedly for charges steaming from their cultural and political advocacy.

Freedom of expression and the media
Attacks on the freedom of expression have increased in the past year, which has seen a sharp rise in arrests for internet-related offenses, as well as continuing arrests of journalists and bloggers and the enforced closure of newspapers. With at least 30 journalists in prison at the start of 2015, Iran is the second leading state in detaining journalists globally according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The Tehran correspondent for the Washington Post, Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian, had—as of this briefing—been detained for over six months without access to a lawyer or publicly disclosed charges. In November 2014 Iranian officials said that Jason Rezaian would “soon” be released.

Since October 2013, at least seven domestic publications—BaharAsemanGhanoonRoozanEbtekar9 of Deyand Ya Al Sarat Al Hossein—have been temporarily or permanently shut down by authorities.

In April 2014, Iran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced eight young Iranians active on Facebook to a total of 127 yearsin prison, which an appeals court later reduced to 114 years. The courts found them guilty of “acting against national security,” “spreading propaganda against the state” and “insulting Islam and state officials.” In November 2014, Iran’sSupreme Court upheld a death sentence for Soheil Arabi “insulting the Prophet” in posts on Facebook. The Supreme Court’s ruling also, arbitrarily and unlawfully, added a new charge to Soheil Arabi’s conviction of “corruption on earth.”

Prisoners of conscience and political prisoners
Iran continues to hold hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience unlawfully detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly or religion, according to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. These prisoners include journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders, artists, bloggers, aid workers, members of the political opposition, student activists, and ethnic and religious minority activists. Many others are being held after being prosecuted and convicted by Revolutionary Courts in unfair trials that failed to meet international fair trial standards, raising serious questions regarding whether they were also targeted for exercising their basic rights. Many detainees have reported facing torture and ill treatment, including severe beatings, mock executions, and prolonged solitary confinement.

Human rights defenders currently detained in Iranian prisons include lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, and journalist Mohammad Saddigh Kaboudvand, who is also a member of Iran’s Kurdish minority, whose detentions have been found to be arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Iranian Green Movement figures and former presidential election candidates, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard, Mir Hossein Mousavi’s wife and a prominent academic and political figure, have been under extrajudicial house arrest with no charges or legal proceedings since February 2011.

At Least 1193 Executions since Hassan Rouhani’s Election as President in Iran

The annual report on the death penalty in 2014 shows that since the election of President Rouhani in June 2013, Iranian authorities have executed more than 1193 people. This is an average of more than 2 executions everyday.
Iran Human Rights, March 12, 2015: On Tuesday March 12, Iran Human Rights (IHR) and Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM) presented IHR’s seventh annual report on the death penalty in Iran.
Different parts of the report will be published in the coming days.

Execution trends before and after the election of Hassan Rouhani:

Despite the optimism and hope after the election of Mr. Hassan Rouhani as the Iranian president, there are few indications that the human rights situation in the country has improved. In fact, a comparison of the 18 months before and after the presidential elections of June 2013 shows that the use of the death penalty has in fact increased.
The diagram on the right shows that the number of executions in the 18 months after the election of Hassan Rouhani as president (1. July 2013 – 31. December 2014) is 31% higher than the numbers in the 18 months before (1. January 2012-31 June 2013).
Even worse, the number of juvenile offenders executed in 2014 is at its highest annual rate since 1990.[4]

Responsibility of the government in the implementation of the executions[1]

According to the Iranian constitution, the government, led by the President, doesn’t have the authority to issue and implement executions. The judiciary is the body directly involved, and it is the head of the judiciary (appointed by the Supreme leader) or the General Prosecutor in drug-trafficking cases, who sign the execution orders.  However, public executions seem to be the exception to this rule. According to the law regarding responsibilities and authority of governors (who represent the government and not the judiciary), the Council for the Security of the Province (headed by the local governor) is specifically responsible for public order and tranquility.[2] Therefore, besides the judiciary (represented by the local judges), the government (represented by the local governor) does have the authority to decide whether an execution should be carried out in public or not. For example, in 2014, the governor of the Sistan and Baluchistan Province (Southeastern Iran) had initially disagreed with the public execution of three alleged terrorists in his province.[3] This decision was later changed (possibly due to political pressure) and the prisoners were hanged in public. This means that although the judiciary makes the initial decision of carrying out the executions in public, the government, if willing, can in fact prevent public executions. Therefore, the government, led by the President, is equally responsible for the high numbers of public executions in Iran.
Picture: A young man is flogged before being publicly executed on 6 August 2014 in Karaj. The government of Mr. Rouhani can according to the Iranian law stop implementation of punishments in public spaces.

Role of the President and his government in use of the death penalty in Iran

As mentioned in the previous section, the President, via his governors, has direct influence on the implementation of public punishments such as flogging, amputation and executions. Although we have observed a slight decrease in the number of public executions, Iran is among the very few countries that implement public executions. In fact, Iran is, together with Saudi Arabia, on top of the list of countries implementing public executions.
On the other hand, there is an increase in the total number of executions during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani. Although the judiciary, and not the government, have the authority to issue and implement death sentences, nor the President or his government representatives have even once criticized the high number of executions in Iran.
It seems that Mr. Rouhani’s government is not preoccupied with the issue of the death penalty. However, this can be changed if the countries involved in a dialogue with Iran put it on the agenda. The government is normally the counterpart in the dialogue between Iran and the international community.
[1] Tabasom Fanaian and Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam: Public executions in Iran: an unfit measure in a modern society. In: ECPM Review on the death penalty in Iran, pp. 84-90, 2014.
[4] Amnesty International, Executions of Juveniles Since 1990,

2052 Executions For Drug-Offences in the Last Five years in Iran

Iran Human Rights (IHR) published its seventh annual report on the death penalty on March 10, 2014. The following is part of the annual report. 
Also see:

Iran Human Rights, March 16, 2014: According to a report published by Iran Human Rights (IHR) at least 2052 people charged with drug-related offences, have been executed by the Iranian authorities in the period of 2010-2014.

Execution for drug-related chargesdrug-related-5year

During the past five years, drug-related charges have counted for the majority of executions in Iran.[1] Based on death penalty reports, at least 2052 people have been executed for drug-related charges since 2010 in Iran. In 2013, there was a relative decrease in the number of drug-related executions compared to the previous three years. However, the decrease didn’t continue. In 2014, at least 367 people were executed for such charges. 123 of these executions were announced by the official sources.

Iranian authorities claim that many of those sentenced to death for drug-related charges are involved in organized, armed smuggling. However, there is a general lack of transparency in the Iranian judicial system and all those convicted for drug-related charges have been tried by the Revolution Courts behind closed doors, and most of those executed are not identified by name. Human rights groups have received many reports on unfair trials and confessions under torture. An example is Saeed Sedighi[2] who was executed in October 2012 despite calls from the UN Special Rapporteurs to halt the execution.[3] Furthermore, many of those executed belonged to the most marginalized parts of society.REF

The international fight against drug trafficking and executions

The United Nations’ Office for Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) has cooperated with Iran in the fight against drug trafficking for the past decades. Several European states have provided millions of dollars worth of support through UNODC to counter-narcotics forces in Iran. A recent report by Reprieve provides a direct link between the UNODC funding and thousands of executions in Iran.[4],[5] Together with several other right groups, IHR and ECPM have urged the UNODC on several occasions to freeze its counter-narcotic funding[6],[7] to Iran or condition it to a stop in drug-related executions. Several countries such as Denmark, Ireland[8] and the UK have stopped their counter-narcotic aid to the UNODC programs in Iran. However, the UNODC continues praising Iranian authorities for their efficient struggle against trafficking without taking into account the several hundred who are executed every year for such charges in Iran. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told reporters that “Iran takes a very active role to fight against illicit drugs,” [9] before an international meeting on global efforts to combat narcotics in Vienna on March 13-14. “It is very impressive,” Fedotov said referring to the reports showing that in 2012, Iran seized 388 tons of opium, the equivalent of 72 percent of all such seizures around the world. Commenting on Mr. Fedotov’s praise of Iran’s fight against drugs, IHR spokesperson Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “The amount of seized drugs is the only positive result UNODC and the Iranian authorities can present. But there is no evidence that the UNODC cooperation with Iran has led to a decrease in drug trafficking. Besides, UNODC cannot be indifferent to the indiscriminate execution of hundreds of prisoners under the pretext of fighting the drug trafficking. UNODC must take its share of responsibility.” [10]
Although there has not been a significant reduction in the number of executions for drug-related charges, the growing international attention seems to have some impact on the Iranian authorities’ rhetoric regarding this issue.

Change in the Anti-Narcotic Law: a change in rhetoric or practice?

In previous years, Iranian authorities proudly presented the high number of executions for drug offences as a sign of their efficient struggle against  international drug trafficking. As late as March 2014, referring to the drug-related executions, Javad Larijani, head of the Iranian Judiciary’s “Human Rights Council” said: “ We expect the world to be grateful for this great service to humanity”. He continued: “Unfortunately, instead of celebrating Iran, international organizations see the increased number of executions caused by Iran’s assertive confrontation with drugs as a vehicle for human rights attacks on the Islamic Republic of Iran.” [11],[12]
However, the rhetoric has clearly changed in the last months of 2014. On December 4, in an English-language interview with France 24, Javad Larijani said, “No one is happy to see that the number of executions is high.” Javad Larijani continued, “We are crusading to change this law. If we are successful, if the law passes in Parliament, almost 80% of the executions will go away.[13] This is big news for us, regardless of Western criticism.” Interestingly, his statement was published also by the state-run Fars News Agency.[14]
This has been echoed by the judiciary. Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, Javad Larijani’s brother and the head of Iran’s Judiciary, addressed the need to change the country’s drug laws. During a December 2 meeting of judiciary officials, he said, “On the issue of drugs and trafficking, it seems necessary that we need a change in the legislation because the ultimate goal of the law should be implementing justice, while in reality, this goal is often not realized”.[15],[16]
Based on these statements, one can conclude that the Iranian authorities have at least publicly admitted that the executions have not been an efficient mean in the fight against drug trafficking.

However, it remains to be seen to what extent these statements represent a real willingness for policy change and are not just a change of rhetoric by the Iranian authorities. Iran’s response to the UPR recommendations regarding the drug-related executions will be indicative of where Iran is heading.

UPR Recommendations on drug-related executions:

Several countries have recommended Iran to respect the ICCPR, which restricts the death penalty for the most serious offences. Below are the recommendations that directly mention the drug-related executions.

  • Amend the Penal Code to exclude drug-trafficking related crimes from those punished by the death penalty (Spain);

  • Consider introducing a moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to its abolition, in particular for drug-related offences and other crimes that cannot be labelled as “most serious” according to international standards (Italy);


Annual Report on the Death penalty in Iran- 2014: At Least 753 Executions

The execution numbers in 2014 are the highest reported executions in more than 15 years.
Iran Human Rights, March 11, 2015: In a press conference held in Oslo yesterday, Iran Human Rights (IHR) and Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM) presented IHR’s seventh annual report on the death penalty in Iran.

Different parts of the report will be published in the coming days.

Annual 2014 Report at a Glance

  • 753 people were executed in 2014 (10% increase compared to 2013)cover
  • 291 cases (39%) were announced by official sources
  • 49% (367) were executed for drug-related charges
  • 32% (240) were executed for murder charges
  • 53 executions were conducted in public spaces
  • At least 14 juvenile offenders were among those executed
  • At least 26 women were executed
  • At least 4 people were resuscitated after being hanged


The present report is being published while diplomatic relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the international community are at their strongest following the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president in June 2013.
In 2014 there have been high level meetings between the Iranian authorities and governments of many Western countries. In addition to visits by hundreds of lawmakers and politicians from the Western countries, top EU officials and foreign ministers of several countries including Norway, Sweden, Italy, Spain and Austria have visited Tehran. Dozens of high level meetings involving Iranian leaders have taken place on the international stage.[1]

In spite of this level of engagement, the data collected by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and published in this report show that the number of executions conducted in 2014 is the highest in more than 15 years.  Moreover, a comparison of the execution rates in the 18 months before and after the election of Mr. Rouhani shows a significant increase in the use of the death penalty after Rouhani’s election. There has also been the highest number of reported juvenile executions since 1990. In addition, Iranian authorities continue execution for non-violent civil and political activists. Executions of Arab teachers, Hadi Rashedi and  Hashem Shabani, who belonged to an Arabic cultural group called “Al-Hiwar” (dialogue)[2], Gholamreza Khosravi, charged with giving economic support to a banned opposition group[3] and Mohsen Amir Aslani charged with insulting the Prophet Jonah and heresy[4], are just few examples of this practice. The Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Soheil Arabi, for insulting the Prophet on Facebook and he remains in danger of execution[5].

This report raises the question whether the use of death penalty has been an issue in the bilateral dialogue between Iran and the countries which are the main promoters of abolition of the death penalty on the international scene.  If the death penalty is an important issue in these talks, why are the execution numbers rising at the same time as the diplomatic relations are increasingly flourishing? And more importantly, what specific measures are the international community going to take in order to counteract this trend?

Commenting the report Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director and spokesperson of IHR said, “Despite the improving relations between the international community and Iran, the situation of the death penalty has deteriorated significantly during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani.  This trend cannot continue. Restriction of the use of the death penalty must be one of the top demands in any dialogue between the international community and Iran.  It is time to show that human rights also benefit from these dialogues.”

The present report is being published just days before adotion of Iran’s UPR at the Human Rights Council (HRC) where Iran will be responding to more than 290 recommendations, among them 39 specific recommendations on the death penalty.  At the same time, public opposition to the death penalty is increasing inside Iran.  There is an ongoing open debate on the issue of public executions. Further, some Iranian officials have indicated a need for change in the Anti-narcotic Law in order to decrease the execution numbers for drug related offences. Further change in the legislation regarding the death penalty for juvenile offenders has also been mentioned. At the same time, a forgiveness movement is forming in Iran, where the families of the murder victims increasingly denounce the use of the death penalty as punishment.
Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, the executive director of ECPM[6] said, “Diplomatic relations and the UPR are good opportunities to improve the situation of the death penalty in Iran. But it demands a stronger will from the international community and Iran’s dialogue partners, particularly the European Union and its members.”

IHR and ECPM believe that extending the mission of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, close monitoring of the UPR recommendations accepted by Iran, conditioning further improvement of the relations with Iran on a reduction in the use of the death penalty and strengthening the Iranian civil society struggling against the death penalty, are the means by which the international community can contribute to restriction of the death penalty in Iran.

IHR and ECPM further believe that abolition of the death penalty for juvenile offenders, public executions and death penalty for drug-related offences are the areas where significant progress can be made in 2015.