Iran executed at least 834 people last year, in ‘staggering’ jump, rights groups say

People cross a street in Tehran, Iran, on March 3, 2024. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
People cross a street in Tehran, Iran, on March 3, 2024. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iran executed a “staggering” total of at least 834 people last year, the highest number since 2015 as capital punishment surged in the Islamic republic, two rights groups say in a new report.

The number of executions, which Iran has carried out by hanging in recent years, was up some 43 percent over 2022.

It marked only the second time in two decades that over 800 executions were recorded in a year, after 972 executions in 2015, Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) and Paris-based Together Against the Death Penalty say in the joint report.

The groups accuse Iran of using the death penalty to spread fear throughout society in the wake of the protests sparked by the September 2022 death in police custody of Mahsa Amini that shook the authorities.

“Instilling societal fear is the regime’s only way to hold on to power, and the death penalty is its most important instrument,” says IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam in the report, which describes the figure of 834 as a “staggering total.”

Iran has executed nine men in cases linked to attacks on security forces during the 2022 protests –- two in 2022, six in 2023 and one so far in 2024 -– according to the rights groups.

But executions have been stepped up on other charges, notably in drug-related cases, which had until recent years seen a fall.

ECPM director Raphael Chenuil-Hazan says the “lack of reaction” by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is sending “the wrong signal to the Iranian authorities”.

Amiry-Moghaddam expresses concern that a lack of international outrage at the executions, in particular with attention focused on the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, was only encouraging the Islamic republic to carry out more hangings.

“The inconsistency in the international community’s reaction to the executions in Iran is unfortunate and sends the wrong signal to the authorities,” he says.

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