(JNi.media) The Iranian authorities are believed to have executed an astonishing 694 people between January 1 and July 15, 2015, in an unprecedented spike in executions, Amnesty International said Thursday.
It comes down to executing more than three people per day, according to AI, which notes that, “at this shocking pace, Iran is set to surpass the total number of executions in the country recorded by Amnesty International for the whole of last year.”
“Iran’s staggering execution toll for the first half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale,” stated Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
“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,” said Boumedouha.
“If Iran’s authorities maintain this horrifying execution rate we are likely to see more than 1,000 state-sanctioned deaths by the year’s end,” Boumedouha added.
According to Thursday’s report, the “death sentences in Iran are particularly disturbing because they are invariably imposed by courts that are completely lacking in independence and impartiality. They are imposed either for vaguely worded or overly broad offenses, or acts that should not be criminalized at all, let alone attract the death penalty. Trials in Iran are deeply flawed, detainees are often denied access to lawyers in the investigative stage, and there are inadequate procedures for appeal, pardon and commutation.”
“The use of the death penalty is always abhorrent, but it raises additional concerns in a country like Iran where trials are blatantly unfair,” Boumedouha said
According to AI, the majority of those put to death in 2015 were convicted on drug charges.
Iran’s Anti-Narcotics Law sets mandatory death sentences for a range of drug-related crimes, including trafficking more than 10 pounds of narcotics derived from opium or more than 30 grams of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their chemical derivatives.
This is in direct breach of international law, which restricts the use of the death penalty to only the “most serious crimes” – those involving intentional killing, the AI report says, noting that drug-related offenses do not meet this threshold.
Among those executed in Iran are also members of ethnic and religious minorities convicted of “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth” including Kurdish political prisoners and Sunni Muslims.
Currently, based on monitoring work done by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, several thousand people are believed to be on death row in Iran.
“It is especially harrowing that there is no end in sight for this theatre of cruelty with Iran’s gallows awaiting thousands more death row prisoners,” said Boumedouha.
Prisoners in Iran are often left languishing on death row, wondering each day if it will be their last. In many cases they are notified of their execution only a few hours beforehand and in some cases, families learn about the fate of their loved ones days, if not weeks, later.