While 160 countries across the world have either abolished the Death Penalty or at least called a moratorium on its use, the clerical regime ruling Iran remains among the world’s most brutal.
The Iranian regime executes more people per capita than any other country. The total number of executions carried out in Iran stands only next to China, whose population is over 17 folds greater. According to Amnesty International, Iran accounts for over half of executions world over.
Tehran sanctions capital punishment for political dissidents as well as ethnic and religious minorities. Juvenile offenders and women are not excluded.
Iran Human Rights Monitor recorded at least 3,602 death sentences carried out during Rouhani’s tenure. This includes the executions of 34 juvenile offenders, 84 women and 86 political prisoners.
Since January 2018, at least 223 people have been executed. The executions of at least nine political prisoners and six individuals who were under 18 at the time of the crime have been confirmed. 35 executions were carried out in public. The actual numbers are likely to be much higher as most executions are carried out secretly.
The death penatly is not only a means for punishment in Iran, but a tool for perserving the rule of those in power in the face of an increasingly furious populace.
The most recent case was the Judiciary spokesman threatening to execute truckers participating in a nationwide strike to demand their rights.
In yet another case, the head of the Revolutionary Court warned that those arrested in the January 2018 protests could face the death penalty.
On the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, Iran Human Rights Monitor draws attention in this report to the common use of the death penalty in Iran often carried out before completion of the due process of law against young Iranians.
Iran HRM calls on all international human rights advocates, in particular the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Executions, to use their powers and authority to compel the clerical regime to stop its prevalent use of the death penalty.
Executing Child Offenders
Iran is one of only four countries known to have executed child offenders since 2013.
At least 85 individuals arrested as minors, are known to be on death row. They include, Mohammad Kalhori, Hamid Ahmadi, Abolfazl Naderi, Babak Pouladi, Mohammad Khazaian, Pouria Tabaie, Mohammad Salehi, Mehdi Bohlouli, Mohammad Reza Haddadi and Saleh Shariati.
In contrast to the international law, retrials of juvenile offenders pursuant to Article 91 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code result in renewed death sentences following arbitrary assessments of their “maturity” at the time of the crime.
Article 6.5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that death sentence “shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.”
Iranian authorities detain death-row child offenders until they pass their 18th birthday and then they execute them.
Iran has executed at least five child offenders across the country since January 2018:
On January 4, authorities in Karaj prison executed Amirhossein Pourjafar for the rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl when he was 16. Pourjafar, who was 18 when he was executed, told Shargh newspaper on December 30, 2017, that he was under influence of alcohol when he committed the crime. Mojtaba Farahbakhsh, Pourjafar’s lawyer, told the newspaper that Pourjafar had signs of a “conduct disorder” and had been hospitalized in a mental health center during his detention. Despite these circumstances, the authorities pushed ahead with carrying out the death penalty.
On January 30, authorities in Bushehr prison, in southern Iran, executed Ali Kazemi for a murder he allegedly committed when he was 15. He was executed even though the authorities had promised to try to halt the execution. On the morning of January 30, prison authorities called to reassure the family that the execution had not taken place. However, at midday, Kazemi’s family found out that the execution had just been carried out.
On January 30, in Nowshahr prison in northern Iran, authorities executed Mahboubeh Mofidi, who was married when she was 13, for the alleged murder of her husband in 2014, when she was 17. Mofidi was 20 when authorities executed her on January 30 in Nowshahr prison in Mazandaran province.
Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi
On June 27, Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi, aged 19, was executed in Qom prison in Qom province, central Iran. He was sentenced to death for a murder committed when he was aged 14 based on an official medical opinion that he was “mature” at the time of the crime.
On October 2, 24-year-old Kurdish woman Zeinab Sekaanvand was executed in Urumieh central prison, in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, despite being only 17 at time of alleged crime. Sekaanvand was married at 15, suffered domestic abuse and reportedly endured torture during her police interrogation.
Executing political prisoners
10 political prisoners have been executed since January 2018, most of which despite international campaigns urging reprieve.
Ramin Hossein Panahi, Zaniar Moradi and Loghman Moradi
Ramin Hossein Panahi and cousins Zaniar Moradi and Loghman Moradi were executed on Saturday, September 8.
The trials of all three men were grossly unfair. All were denied access to their lawyers and families after their arrest, and all said they were tortured into making “confessions”. They had been sentenced to death despite these massive failings in due process.
The two cousins had spent eight years on death row since confessing to a 2009 killing of the son of a Muslim cleric in Marivan, a confession that both men later said was extracted under torture.
Panahi was sentenced to death in January for allegedly drawing a weapon against Iranian security forces operating in northwestern Iran’s predominantly ethnic Kurdish region in June 2017. He confessed to taking up arms against the state, but Amnesty said family members who saw him in court believe he also was tortured into confessing because of apparent torture marks on his body.
Ramin Hossein Panahi began a hunger strike at Rajaei Shahr prison on August 26 by sewing his lips together in protest at his death sentence.
On June 18, Iranian authorities executed Mohammad Salas convicted of killing three police officers during clashes involving members of a Sufi order, despite calls to stop his execution.
According to Amnesty International, the 51-year-old bus driver was convicted and sentenced to death in March following a “grossly unfair trial.”
Salas said he was forced under torture to make a “confession” against himself. This “confession”, taken from his hospital bed, was broadcast on state television weeks before his trial and used as the only piece of evidence to convict him. He was not allowed access to his chosen lawyer at any point before or during his trial, and his independent lawyer’s repeated demands to the authorities to allow critical evidence indicating his innocence were dismissed outright.
Death-row prisoners, horrifying numbers
Rjaie Shahr Prison
The highest number of executions count up for Rajaishahr Prison. This prison is also known as Gohardasht. It’s located in the city of Karaj approximately 20 km west of Tehran.
Around 264 inmates are held in ward 10 of this prison, of which 86 are on death row, meaning one third.
In ward 3, known as the youth ward, with around 180 inmates under the age of 25, around 80 are currently on death row condemned for “retribution in kind.” A number of these individuals were arrested under the age of 18. This accumulates to nearly half of the youth ward and one-third of ward 10 are inmates on death row.
In ward 3 nearly 120 of the 210 inmates are on death row. This is more than half.
In ward 2, known as the Dar Al Quran ward, 120 of the 160 inmates are condemned based on “retribution” charges.
Qezel Hessar Prison
Unit 2 of this prison has around 1,000 death row inmates, with numerous individuals charged with murder and others for drug offenses.
Urmia Central Prison
Inwards 1 to 4 of this jail more than 166 individuals are currently on death row. All the while this may not be the latest numbers.
Wards 1 and 2 of this prison, specified for mentally disturbed inmates, eight individuals are on death row. Ward 12 is also home to three death row inmates.
The so-called youth ward houses six individuals condemned to execution.
Ward 15, known as the drug offenses ward, six individuals are known to be on death row.
Zahedan Central Prison
According to the latest list of names rounded up in March, 145 inmates are on death row. Some of which have been held in the horrendous conditions of this jail for years awaiting their execution. Drug criminals and a number of political prisoners are seen among the death row inmates.
24 individuals in ward 4 of this prison are on death row, mostly for drug-related charges, murders or affiliation to political groups.
Wards 1 and 3 of this prison houses another 21 death row inmates.
Dastgerd Prison of Isfahan
This prison has around 20 death row inmates, charged with murder and drug offenses.
Death-row prisoners’ conditions
The 17th World Day Against the Death Penalty aims at raising awareness on the inhumane living conditions of people sentenced to death.
Death row prisoners in Iran linger in catastrophic conditions from solitary confinement to the medieval tortures inflicted on them. The living conditions tend to dehumanize death-row prisoners and take away their dignity.
In many cases where people were sentenced to death or executed, the proceedings did not meet international standards of the due process of law. This includes the extraction of “confessions” through torture or other ill-treatment.
The tortures some death row prisoners were reportedly subjected to follow:
- Completely stripping the prisoners and pouring boiling hot water on them;
- Pushing needles into their genitals;
- Hanging prisoners upside down from their feet;
- Hanging prisoners by their wrists;
- Pulling out the prisoners’ nails;
- Leaving the prisoners in absolute darkness for about forty days. Some prisoners lose part of their eyesight;
- Depriving prisoners of bathing for two months;
- Restricting prisoners’ use of restroom to only once in every 24 hours;
- Giving prisoners food rations the size of the palm of a hand;
- Forcing prisoners to eat in the same unwashed plate for three months;
- Flogging prisoners while eating their food.
Many spend prolonged periods on death row, sometimes for more than a decade. On numerous occasions, prisoners are sent to the gallows, then returned to the cell. Sometimes, they inform prisoners of scheduled hanging but postpone its implementation. In this way, death-row prisoners have to endure additional pain and suffering.
Sometimes, the families are not informed of the execution of their loved ones adequately in advance and not given the chance to say goodbye.
A commonplace in many Iranian prisons is to force the families of execution victims to pay for the noose used to hang their loved ones, or the bullet used to shoot them. The victim’s body is not delivered to the family until the money is paid.
2018 reports included cases of authorities refusing to deliver the body of execution victims to their families or burying them without the families’ permission.