Number of executions in Iran more than doubled in first half of 2022 – NGO

executions in Iran more than doubled in the first half of 2022, the NGO said Friday, warning that the surge in hangings was intended to spread fear during the protests.

Between January 1 and June 30, 251 people were hanged in Iran, compared with 117 in the first half of last year, the Norwegian-based Iranian Human Rights Organization (IHR) said in a report.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres last month expressed concern about the rise in the number of executions as Iran again executed a large number of drug offenders and many ethnic minorities.

In recent months, there have been nationwide protests in Iran over economic grievances such as the rising cost of basic foodstuffs, including bread.

“There is no doubt that the main purpose of these executions is to spread fear to counter the growing mass protests against the regime,” IHR founder Mahmoud Amiri-Moghaddam told AFP.

“Only a stronger international response and domestic campaigns against executions can raise the political cost of these executions to the authorities and stop the rising trend,” he said.

He noted that since the start of the new wave of protests on May 7, 137 people have been executed. Six women were also among those executed, IHR reports.

On Wednesday alone, eight prisoners were executed on charges of rape and murder at the Rajai Shahr prison near Tehran, according to IHR.

– ‘Deeply concerned’ –

Of particular concern to activists is also the disproportionate number of executed members of non-Persian ethnic minorities in Iran, especially the Balochs and Kurds.

The HRI reported that 67 prisoners from the Baloch minority, who adhere to the Sunni sect of Islam in predominantly Shiite Iran and live in the south-east of the country, were executed during this period.

Activists have also expressed dismay at the June 20 execution of a Kurd named Firuz Musalou, who was convicted on charges of being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is insurgent in neighboring Turkey.

His sentence was carried out secretly, without the knowledge of his family.

Amnesty International’s annual report on the death penalty says that in 2021 the number of executions rose by 28 percent to 314, the highest since 2017 and has reversed the decline since then.

He noted that at least 19 percent of the reported executions were carried out by members of the ethnic Baloch minority, who make up only up to five percent of Iran’s population as a whole.

The number of executions in Iran has declined since 2017, when amendments to the country’s anti-drug law went into effect that reduced the number of people sentenced to death on drug-related charges.

“The Secretary General is deeply concerned about the increase in the number of executions, including for drug-related offences,” said Nada Al-Nashif, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, when presenting the Guterres report on Iran in June.

“The death penalty continues to be handed down on charges that do not fall under the ‘most serious crimes’ and in ways that are inconsistent with fair trial standards,” she added.

The IHR has stated that its execution count only includes executions published in the official media or confirmed by at least two independent sources, meaning that the real number could be higher.