Brussels, 26 February 2019, Iran Human Rights (IHR) and ECPM (Together against the death penalty) and release their 11th annual report on the death penalty in Iran.
The 11th annual report on the death penalty by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and ECPM provides an assessment and analysis of the death penalty trends in 2018 in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
At least 273 people were executed in 2018, a 48% decrease compared to 2017
93 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. 180 executions, were not announced by the authorities
At least 188 executions (69% of all executions) were for murder charges
At least 24 people (8.8% of all executions) were executed for drug-related charges – 207 less than in 2017
None of the drug-related executions were announced by 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 murder victims
The publication of this Report 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 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 squad on the roof of “Rafah School”, which was Ayatollah Khomeini’s headquarters at that time. A lack of due process, unfair trials and arbitrary executions continue today, four decades after that February night. IHR has documented close to 6,000 executions in the fourth decade of the Islamic Republic’s life.
This report shows, however, that 2018 distinguishes itself from the previous years. 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-Narcotics law which aims to restrict use of the death penalty for such offences. Commenting on the reduction in execution numbers in the 2018 report, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, IHR spokesperson, 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”.
IHR and ECPM welcome the significant reduction in use of the death penalty and hope that this trend will continue towards complete abolition. However, some significant challenges remain relating to the death penalty in Iran: a lack of due process, legal provisions contrary to international human rights treaties, public executions, juvenile executions, harassment of human rights defenders and a lack of transparency on use of the death penalty remain major issues. Commenting on the juvenile executions, Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, ECPM’s Executive Director, 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”. 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 use of the death penalty as their only and most efficient weapon in the face of the unrest.
Iran Human Rights (IHR) and ECPM (Ensemble contre la peine de mort) call on upon the international community and Iran’s European dialogue partners to press for a moratorium on use of the death penalty and for major reforms in the country’s judicial system which does not currently meet minimum international standards. IHR and ECPM call on the Iranian authorities to seriously consider the recommendations made in this report, including access to prisoners on death row and imposing a 5-year moratorium on use of the death penalty.
In 2019, Iran will have its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR). During the last UPR in 2014, Iran accepted only one of the 41 recommendations relating to death penalty. Iran agreed to “take measures to ensure due process and a fair trial, particularly in any process that would lead to application of 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.