Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Iran and the Death Penalty

Updated February 2016

A recent brief from Amnesty International examines how many prisoners were executed by Iran in the first half of 2015.  From this data, it appears that there has been an unprecedented increase in the nation's use of the death penalty.  To help you put these statistics into perspective, Iran's population was 77.8 million in 2014.

Let's look at some background information first.  According to Iran Human Rights, in 2014, Iran executed at least 753 people, the highest reported level of executions in more than 15 years and a 10 percent increase over 2013 as shown on this bar graph noting that only confirmed executions are included:

Here is a graphic showing the number of official and unofficial executions that took place each month during 2014:

The number of executions is low in July because it is the holy month of Ramadan.  During 2014, most of the executions took place in Fars province located in the south of the country near the Persian Gulf. 

Note that Hassan Rouhani, Iran's latest president and who is considered to be a "reformist/political moderate", took office on August 4, 2013.  It is also important to note that the IHR report distinguishes between executions that have been announced by the official Iranian media, websites of the Iranian justice system, Iranian police forces, the National Iranian Broadcasting Network, state-run news agencies and national or local newspapers.  It appears that there are a significant number of executions that have not been reported through official channels; the sources for the information about these executions comes from family members, the legal profession and other human rights NGOs.

All reported executions during 2014 were carried out by hanging and most public executions were carried out using cranes as shown on this video from the FARS News Agency:

The prisoner is executed either by having an object that they are standing on removed after the noose is put into place or they are pulled up by the crane.  In both cases, the fall is unlikely to kill the prisoner, rather, they die slowly by strangulation over a period of several minutes.  As well, at least some of the executions take place in public: during 2014, 53 executions took place in public and these are often witnessed by children.

Let's go back to Mr. Rouhani, Iran's latest President and a man who is considered to be a "moderate".  In the 18 months before he was elected, 827 prisoners were executed.  In the 18 months since he was elected, 1193 executions took place, 31 percent higher than before he took office.  As well, the number of juvenile offenders executed in 2014 is at the highest rate since 1990.

Let's close this section looking at why 753 people were executed in 2014:

For the first time in five years, the official number of executions for murder charges is almost equal to the number of executions for drug-related charges.  In the case of drug-related charges, Iran's Anti-Narcotic Law requires the death penalty on the fourth conviction for drug-related offences which include trafficking of more than 5 kilograms of opium-derived narcotics or more than 30 grams of heroin, morphine and cocaine.  The vast majority of these drugs are sourced in Afghanistan which produced a near-record crop in 2014.  Iran's anti-narcotic laws have led to the execution of 367 people during 2014, down from a high of 509 in 2011.  At least 2052 people have been executed for drug-related charges in Iran since 2010.  

Now, let's look at what has happened to the number of executions in Iran during the first half of 2015.  According to Amnesty International, 694 people have been executed between the beginning of January and the 15th of July, 2015, equivalent to three people daily.  If this rate continues, Amnesty suggests that Iran could execute more than 1000 people by the end of 2015.  There is one additional change in 2015; this year, at least four people were executed over Ramadan.

Here is a graphic from Iran Human Rights showing the number of executions in the first six months of 2015 by month and why the executions took place:

Of the executions, 464 were drug-related, 114 were for murder and 70 were for other crimes; included among the executions for drugs were 12 women. 

As in the case of Saudi Arabia, it will be interesting to see if Washington and the rest of the developed world is able to ignore possible human rights violations simply because both nations have an abundance of the greasy black stuff than keeps the wheels of the world's economy turning.  Despite the fact that international law states that the death penalty is to be used only for the most serious crimes, governments have an interesting ability to turn a blind eye when there are profits to be made, particularly when those profits involve oil.

1 comment:

  1. Well at least they aren't chopping heads that was the big issue with Saudi Arabia. The fact that drug related offenses lead to death is one think but at least the get 4 strikes until that happens. US the first offense would have someone locked up for 5-20 years. So no death but 4 times in prison for those amount of drugs in the US you would be in jail until you die. So death will have come slower but you'd be in prison for long time.