In 2015, Iran carried out at least 977 executions, according to a new report by Amnesty International. The organization estimates that at least 577 executions took place in addition to the 400 acknowledged by Iranian authorities – a 31 percent increase compared to 2014. China carried out the most executions in 2015, followed by Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. The following is an excerpt on Iran from the report.
Iran carried out at least 977 executions in 2015. The Iranian authorities announced 400 executions through official and semi-official sources. However, credible sources confirmed that at least 577 more executions took place, in addition to those officially announced. At least 16 women and at least four juvenile offenders were executed. At least 58 executions known to Amnesty International were carried out publicly. Scores of death sentences were imposed in Iran during the year. However, Amnesty International was unable to confirm any credible figures.
The majority of executions carried out in 2015 were for drug-related offences. Iran’s AntiNarcotics Law stipulates mandatory death sentences for a range of drug-related offences, including trafficking more than 5kg of narcotics derived from opium or more than 30g of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their chemical derivatives.
In June, a new Code of Criminal Procedure came into force. The new Code repealed Article 32 of the Anti-Narcotics Law. This Article provided no right of appeal against death sentences imposed for drug-related crimes, in flagrant violation of international law. Under the repealed Article, all death sentences were subject to confirmation either by the Head of the Supreme Court or the Prosecutor General, who were entitled to revise or quash the sentence if they found it had contravened Islamic law or that the judge was not competent.
In December, several members of Parliament proposed a bill to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment for drug-related offences that do not involve armed activities.
Many death sentences in Iran were imposed after trials that fell short of international fair trial standards. Defendants often had no access to lawyers during pre-trial investigations, and courts generally dismissed allegations of torture and admitted as evidence “confessions” obtained under torture. As in previous years Iranian courts continued to sentence people to death for crimes that are vaguely worded and overly broad; not recognizably criminal offences under international human rights law; and do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes”.
In July, a court sentenced Mohammad Ali Taheri to death for “spreading corruption on earth” by establishing a spiritual group called Erfan-e Halgheh and promoting beliefs and practices which the authorities said were “perverse” and would advance a “soft overthrow” of the government by weakening people’s religious convictions. The Supreme Court quashed the death sentence in December, after concluding that Mohammad Ali Taheri’s activities before he was arrested in 2011 had not amounted to “spreading corruption on earth” as defined in the old Islamic Penal Code (which was in force until 2013 when a new Islamic Penal Code was adopted). He remained under investigation for various allegations, including “apostasy” (ertedad) and “insulting the Prophet” (sabbo al-nabi) which could carry the death penalty.
Behrouz Alkhani, a 30-year-old man from Iran’s Kurdish minority, was executed on 26 August despite the fact that he was awaiting the outcome of a Supreme Court appeal. He had been sentenced to death by a Revolutionary Court for “effective collaboration with PJAK” (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) and “enmity against God” (moharebeh). His “confessions”, which he said were obtained through torture and other ill-treatment, were used against him.
On 4 March, six men from Iran’s Sunni minority, Hamed Ahmadi, Jahangir Dehghani, Jamshid Dehghani, Kamal Molaee, Hadi Hosseini and Sediq Mohammadi, were executed for the vaguely worded offence of “enmity against God” (moharebeh). The executions were carried out despite serious concerns about the fairness of the legal proceedings that led to the men’s convictions. The men had been held in solitary confinement during their pre-trial detention for several months without access to a lawyer or their families. They said they met their court-appointed lawyers for the first time, a few minutes before the start of their trials. The court proceedings were held behind closed doors and apparently lasted only 10 to 30 minutes.
Iran continued to impose death sentences on and execute juvenile offenders, in breach of its international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).168 The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the ICCPR prohibit the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders.
At least 160 juvenile offenders were on death row at the end of 2015. Some of them had been in prison for more than a decade. At least 73 juvenile offenders were executed between 2005 and 2015. Four of them were executed in 2015: Javed Saberi, Vazir Amroddin, Samad Zahabi and Fatemeh Salbehi. During the year, a number of juvenile offenders had retrials based on the provisions of the 2013 new Islamic Penal Code; the courts found that they had sufficient “mental growth and maturity” at the time of the crime and they were sentenced to death again.
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