04/13/2023, 11.21
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NGOs: Tehran uses executions for drug offences to suppress protest

A report published by Iran Human Rights (Ihr) and Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort denounces, 75% more people were hanged in 2022 than in previous years. The aim is to "instil fear and terror" to stop pro-Mahsa Amini demonstrations. Among those executed, drug offenders and minorities, especially Kurds and Beluchis, are on the rise.

Tehran (AsiaNews) - In 2022 the Iranian government hanged 75% more people than in previous years, continuing even for the first months of this year to arm the executioner with the aim of "intimidating" the population and curbing street protests, exploiting convictions for drug offences.

This is what two pro-human rights NGOs denounced today, calling the Islamic Republic an 'execution machine' whose ultimate aim is to 'instil fear and terror' among its inhabitants. Most of the hangings (288, or 49% of the total) are for murder, the highest figure in 15 years, but there is also widespread use for offences related to drug use and trafficking. 

The report published today by the Norwegian Iran Human Rights (Ihr) and the Paris-based NGO Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (Ecpm) mentions 582 executions carried out last year (but the numbers could be higher), the highest figure since 2015 and well above the 333 in 2021.

What armed the executioner and prompted the authorities to resort to capital punishment in the first place was the massive wave of popular protest in response to the killing of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police because she was not wearing the hijab properly.

The demonstrations against the compulsory headscarf turned into a broader movement for freedom and rights, the largest and most participatory since the 1979 revolution, which was suppressed in blood by the ayatollahs.

Director Ihr Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam points out that while the international reaction to the executions linked to the popular protest has stopped the use of the death penalty in this matter, Tehran continues to execute for other crimes, with the aim of intimidating the population.

"The international reactions to the death sentences against protesters have made it difficult for the Islamic Republic to proceed with their executions," he said.

"To compensate, and in order to spread fear among people, the authorities have intensified the execution for non-political charges. These are the low-cost victims of the Islamic Republic's execution machine," he added.

With regard to the protests, the report points out that after the first four executions of protesters Tehran froze further hangings of the more than 100 people sentenced to death and who still risk ending up in the hands of the executioner.

In contrast, there has been a steady increase in the number of people executed for drug offences since the uprisings began in September last year, with other movements including Amnesty International accusing Iran of a 'chilling escalation in the use of the death penalty' particularly against Kurds and Beluchis.

A drop in the number of drug-related executions - linked to the 2017 amendments to the Anti-Narcotics Law - had led to a collapse in the use of capital punishment until 2021. In contrast, more than half of those executed after the start of the demonstrations and 44% of the 582 executions carried out last year were drug-related.

This figure is twice as high as in 2021 and 10 times higher than the figure for executions for drug trafficking or use in 2020. At the same time, activist movements denounce the failure of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODC) and donor countries to take action against this 'dramatic escalation'.

The study shows that members of the Beluci minority, mainly Sunni Muslims, accounted for 30% of the total number of executions throughout the country, although they represent only 2-6% of the Iranian population.

The number of Kurds and Arabs executed was also disproportionate, especially for drug crimes, when compared to the population. 'The death penalty is part of the systematic discrimination and extensive repression,' the report concludes, 'to which Iran's ethnic minorities are subjected'.

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