Amnesty Report: Iran Death Penalties

April 1, 2015

In 2014, Iranian authorities announced 289 executions, “but hundreds more were carried out which were not officially acknowledged,” according to a new report by Amnesty International. The organization estimated that at least 454 unannounced executions were carried out in the Islamic Republic. China carried out more executions than the rest of the world put together, but the other countries making up the top five executioners were Iran, Saudi Arabia (at least 90 executions), Iraq (at least 61) and the United States (35). The following is an excerpt from the report on Iran.  

Iran carried out the most executions in the region (Middle East) in 2014. Iranian authorities or state-controlled or state-sanctioned media officially announced 289 executions (278 men and 11 women). However, reliable sources reported at least 454 more executions in addition to those officially announced, bringing the total number of executions in 2014 to at least 743. Of those officially announced, 122 involved individuals convicted of drug-related offences and 29 were carried out in public. At least 81 death sentences were imposed. This figure included those that were officially announced and those that were not. In addition, at least 22 commutations were granted while at least 81 people were on death row at the end of the year.
During the year, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic
Republic of Iran expressed concern about the continued high rate of executions and use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders in Iran.
Amnesty International received reports that Iran executed at least 14 people who were under 18 at the time of the crime. In December, the Supreme Court issued a “pilot judgment” ruling that all individuals currently on death row for crimes committed while they were under the age of 18 can submit judicial review requests to the Supreme Court pursuant to Article 91 of the revised Islamic Penal Code. The revised Penal Code allows the execution of juvenile offenders under qesas (retribution-in-kind) and hodoud (offences and punishments for which there are fixed penalties under Islamic law) crimes, unless the juvenile offender is found to have not understood the nature of the crime or its consequences, or if there are doubts about the offender’s mental capacity. The use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders is strictly prohibited under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; Iran is a party to both International human rights treaties.
Iran continued to carry out executions in secret. Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Sha’bani Nejad, of the Ahwazi Arab minority, were executed in secret in January 2014, following an unfair trial in 2012 which resulted in them being convicted of “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth.” The authorities did not tell their families when they were executed and refused to hand over their bodies for burial.
Death sentences were generally imposed following 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.
Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed on 25 October in Raja’i Shahr Prison, in Karaj near Tehran, for the killing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Reyhaneh Jabbari was arrested in 2007 and admitted the stabbing immediately after arrest. She said she had acted in self defence, after he had tried to sexually abuse her. Following her arrest, she was held in solitary confinement for two months in Tehran’s Evin Prison, where she did not have access to a lawyer or her family. She was sentenced to death under qesas by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009. The death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court the same year. Sentences of Qesas are not open to pardon or amnesty by the Supreme Leader.
Iranian courts continued to sentence people to death for crimes that did not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” and crimes not recognizably criminal offences under international human rights law.
Soheil Arabi was sentenced to death on 30 August by a criminal court in Tehran for “insulting the Prophet of Islam” (sabbo al-nabbi). The charge was based on postings he made on eight Facebook accounts, which the authorities said belonged to him. The Supreme Court upheld the sentence on 24 November. Soheil Arabi had been arrested in November 2013 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and spent two months in solitary confinement in section 2A of Tehran’s Evin Prison, which is under the control of the IRGC. During interrogation, he was pressured into making a “confession”.
Earlier in February 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of another man, Rouhollah Tavana, for “insulting the Prophet of Islam” in a video clip. He had been sentenced to death on 3 August 2013 by a criminal court in Khorasan.
In December, the threat of execution was used to punish some death row inmates. The authorities threatened to expedite the execution of 10 men, including a juvenile offender, for going on hunger strike. The men were among 24 prisoners from Iran’s Kurdish minority who started a hunger strike on 20 November in protest at the conditions of Ward 12 of Oroumieh Central Prison, West Azerbaijan Province, where political prisoners are held. The juvenile offender, Saman Naseem, was sentenced to death following an unfair trial in 2013 on the charges of “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth” for his alleged membership of the armed opposition group, Party For Free Life of Kurdistan, and engaging in armed activities against the state. Saman Naseem was 17 at the time of the alleged offences.
Click here for the full report.