After China, Iran is now the nation with the second highest incidence of capital punishment.
Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2016 that Iran put over 830 people to death last year, the majority of whom were sentenced for drug convictions. That’s 2.27 people per day on average. The number of executions in 2015 indicates that capital sentences are on the rise from previous years. In 2014, Iran executed only 289.
Another report by Amnesty International on Tuesday says that Iran has now put 73 juveniles to death in the last decade. While most of these have been for murder or rape, “enmity against God” and drug offenses also have led to juvenile executions.
Amnesty International’s Said Boumedouha stated that the death toll “paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale” although the exact reasons for the rise in executions last year is unknown. “For years, Iranian authorities have used the death penalty to spread a climate of fear in a misguided effort to combat drug trafficking, yet there is not a shred of evidence to show that this is an effective method of tackling crime,” he says.
Regardless, the deputy of Iran’s Centre for Strategic Research admitted in early 2015 that the death penalty has not been an effective deterrent and it has not lowered the amount of drugs trafficked.
The authorities repeatedly clamped down on free speech and dissent. Social media users, artists, and journalists, including the Iranian-American Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, face harsh sentences on dubious security charges. Freedom of assembly and association also suffered in 2015, with authorities harassing and arresting students, teachers, and labor union members for peaceful activities. Dozens of political activists and human rights defenders are in detention for their peaceful or professional activities.
Executions of minorities such as Kurds and Sunni Muslims were also on the rise in 2015, frequently without due process.