/ IHRights#Iran: Hossein Amaninejad and Hamed Yavari were executed in Hamedan Central Prison on 11 June. Hossein was arrested… https://t.co/3lnMTwFH6z13 Jun

Iran: Annual report on the death penalty 2018

26 Feb 19
Iran: Annual report on the death penalty 2018

Iran Human Rights (IHR); February 26, 2018: The 11th Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and ECPM, coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution of 1979. The Islamic revolution marks the start of an era where the death penalty became a “normal” part of the people’s everyday lives. The first death sentences were carried out only three days after the victory of the revolution, as four of the Shah’s generals were executed by firing squads on the roof of “Rafah School”, which was Ayatollah Khomeini’s headquarters at that time. The death sentences were issued, and the executions carried out on the night of February 15, 1979, after a session, only a few hours long, of a newly established Revolutionary Court, without the presence of a defense lawyer and lacking a process with even a minimum resemblance to a fair trial. Pictures of the dead generals covered the front pages of the main Iranian newspapers the next morning. Lack of due process, unfair trials and arbitrary executions continue now, four decades after that February night. IHR has documented close to 6000 executions in the fourth decade of the Islamic Republic’s life. 





2018 Annual Report at a Glance

  • At least 273 people were executed in 2018, 48% decrease compared to 2017
  • 94 executions (34%) were announced by official sources. In 2017, 21 % had been announced by the authorities
  • Approximately 66% of all executions included in the 2018 report, i.e. 179 executions, were not announced by the authorities
  • At least 188 executions (66% of all executions) were for murder charges
  • At least 24 people (8,7% of all executions) were executed for drug-related charges- 207 less than in 2017
  • None of the drug-related executions were announced by the official sources
  • 13 executions were conducted in public spaces
  • At least 6 juvenile offenders were among those executed
  • At least 5 women were executed
  • At least 62 executions in 2018 and more than 3,526 executions since 2010 have been based on death sentences issued by the Revolutionary Courts
  • At least 272 death row prisoners were forgiven by the families of the murder victims



The present report shows, however, that 2018 distinguishes itself from the previous years. The report shows that in 2018 at least 273 people were executed in Iran. This is the lowest number documented since 2007 and represents a 47% reduction from execution numbers in 2017. More importantly, the reduction is mainly due to a decline in the number of drug-related executions, following enforcement of new amendments to the Anti-Narcotic law which aim at restricting the use of the death penalty for such offenses. The number of drug-related executions declined from 230 in 2017 to 24 in 2018. Commenting on the reduction in the execution numbers in the 2018 report, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said, “This is probably the most significant step towards limitation in the use of the death penalty in the history of the Islamic Republic, and probably 2018’s most significant change in death penalty trends worldwide. We hope it is the first step of many that the Iranian authorities must take in order to improve their dark human rights record”.

Iranian authorities have admitted on several occasions that the political cost of drug-related executions has become too high. In a recent meeting with the General Secretary and other high ranking officers of Iran’s Drug Control Headquarters, the head of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Larijani, said, : ”Death penalty must be the last way of combating the drug problems”, and continued, “the costs of the executions is very high, you must not underestimate the costs”. This refers to the increasing international pressure on the Iranian authorities for the high number of drug-related executions in the past. 

Due to the lack of transparency, it is not known how many death sentences have been commuted due to the new legislation, but the execution of 20 drug offenders in the last 3 months of the year gives reason to fear that the few months’ halt in implementation of drug-related death sentences might have come to an end.

IHR and ECPM welcome the significant reduction in the use of the death penalty due to the enforcement of the new amendments to the Anti-Narcotic law and hope that this trend will continue towards complete abolition. However main challenges remain relating to the death penalty in Iran; lack of due process, provisions of laws contradictory to international human rights treaties, public executions, juvenile executions, harassment of human rights defenders, and lack of transparency on the use of the death penalty remain major issues.

In violation of their international obligations, Iranian authorities continue executions of juvenile offenders. At least six juvenile offenders were executed in 2018, one more than the previous year, and several juveniles are in danger of execution. Commenting on the juvenile executions Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, the Executive Director of ECPM said: “Iran must end its shameful practice of child execution. We call on the international community, especially the EU, to put the issue of the death penalty in general and juvenile execution in particular at the top of their demands in their dialogue with the Iranian authorities”.

In 2018, Iranian authorities once again displayed their systematic violations of due process and the rule of law. Televised confessions, unfair trials and reports of torture, are reminders of the fact that sustainable improvements in the status of human rights, and serious steps towards abolition of the death penalty, are not possible without fundamental changes in Iran’s judicial system.

Iranian authorities have, moreover, demonstrated their willingness to use the death penalty as a means to intimidate civil society and to counteract public protests. Execution of the Gonabadi dervish Mohammad Salas as a response to the weeks-long protests by the Gonabadi dervish community; execution of the Kurdish political prisoners Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi and Ramin Hossein Panahi, as a mean to intimidate the growing Kurdish civil movements; and threatening the striking truck drivers and shopkeepers with death penalty, are just a few examples of how the Iranian authorities use the death penalty as an instrument of oppression of the people.

Finally, with the crisis in Iran’s economy, people's focus has been directed towards the massive corruption within the establishment. Iranian authorities fear for nationwide protests against the massive corruption within the Islamic Republic’s system and have been using corruption as an excuse to arrest, condemn to death and execute in order to spread fear in the society. In this context, three men charged with corruption and sentenced several others to death. These sentences and executions are regarded as a means to spread fear in the society rather than fighting corruption.

IHR and ECPM are concerned that with further deterioration of the economy and increasing frustration and anger among the people, the authorities will use more violence, and above all will increase the use of the death penalty as their only and most efficient weapon to face the unrest.

With the launch of this report, IHR and ECPM call upon the international community, and Iran’s European dialogue partners, to press for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and for major reforms in the country’s judicial system, which does not at this time meet minimum international standards. IHR and ECPM call on Iranian authorities to seriously consider the recommendations made in this report including to allow access to prisoners on death row and to impose a 5 years moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

In 2019, Iran will have its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR). During the last UPR review in 2014, Iran accepted only one of the 41 recommendations relating to the death penalty. This year’s UPR is an important opportunity for the international community to put the issue of the death penalty on the agenda again. The positive experience of sustained pressure and focus on drug-related executions can and should be applied to other aspects of the death penalty.