'Killing machine': Iran ramps up executions to 'instil fear'

Nooses in an dark room.
Nooses in an dark room. Copyright Canva Stock Images
Copyright Canva Stock Images
By Euronews with AFP
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The number of people handed the death penalty in Iran increased by 75% last year, according to NGOs.


Executions in Iran jumped by 75% in 2022, according to two human rights organisations. 

In their report, Iran Human Rights (IHR) and Together Against the Death Penalty documented at least 582 hangings last year, denouncing what they called a "killing machine" aimed at "instilling fear" in the population. 

Starting in September 2022, Iran was rocked by mass anti-government protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly violating the country's strict dress code. 

Authorities violently repressed the movement, killing more than 522 and arresting nearly 20,000, as per a January report by the US-based Human Rights Activist News Agency. 

Four people have been hung so far in connection to the dissent, though the report suggests 100 detainees are on death row or facing capital charges. However, most of last year's executions are for criminal - not strictly political - reasons. 

"Once again [the death penalty has been] used as an ultimate tool of intimidation and oppression by the Iranian regime in order to maintain the stability of its power," said the NGOs in a joint statement. 

"In order to instil fear among the population and young protesters, authorities have intensified the executions of prisoners sentenced for reasons other than political ones," added IHR Director Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam.

"To stop the death machine put in place by the Iranian regime, the international community and civil society, whether there or not, must actively show their opposition each time a person is executed in the country,” he continued. 

Alongside executions, security forces have been accused of deliberately blinding protesters by firing at their faces and using combat weapons, such as machine guns, against demonstrations, especially in minority areas. 

Widespread allegations of rape and sexual assault by officials in detention centres have also circulated.  

According to the report, the death penalty is dispassionately used against Iran's ethnic and religious minorities, such as Kurds, Turks, Arabs and Balochis. 

It details that the Baloch minority represent 30% of all executions while accounting for only 2 to 6% of the population.

The death penalty is "a means of pressure and, more broadly, a repressive lever to manage the social problems of the country," said the authors. 

Their report found that the number of executions for drug trafficking increased sharply, equating to nearly half the total number recorded last year. 

The figure is double the amount in 2021 and ten times that of 2020. 

The NGOs behind the report denounced inaction by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 

"The lack of response from UNODC and its affiliated countries does not send the right message to the Iranian authorities," said Together Against the Death Penalty Director Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan. 

"The abolition of the death penalty for crimes related to drug trafficking must be set as an indispensable condition for future cooperation between UNODC and Iran."

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