Hundreds of people were executed in Iran last year, including some who were minors at the time of their alleged crimes, and the grizzly practice of public executions continues, according to a report from the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC).
During the Persian calendar year between March 2017 and March 2018, 520 people, including six individuals who were juveniles when they allegedly committed their crimes, were executed in the Islamic Republic, according to official figures, though the IHRDC notes that some state-sanctioned executions are carried out in secret, making the real number difficult to know.
According to IHRDC findings, Kabir Dehqan Zai, Javad Mir, Alireza Tajiki, Amir Hossein Pourja’far, Ali Kazemi, and Mahboubeh Mofidi were under 18 when they allegedly committed their crimes, and were executed last year.
Most of those executed during the period in question were sentenced to death for smuggling, narcotics, and murder. However, human rights groups say capital punishment is not limited to violent crimes. Adultery, non-violent drug offenses, sodomy (consensual or otherwise), apostasy (conversion to another religion from Islam), insulting the Prophet Muhammad, and vague national security crimes like ‘sowing corruption on Earth’ are all punishable by death.
International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned Iran for its high rate of executions.
“With an average of more than one execution every day and more than one execution per 167,000 inhabitants in 2017, Iran remained the country with the highest number of executions per capita,” wrote the NGO Iran Human Rights in its tenth annual report.
Based on the United Nation’s annual report, 213 people were hanged in the Islamic Republic for smuggling narcotics in 2017, 202 for murder, 24 for rape and sexual related crimes, sixteen for burglary and armed robbery, and two for political offenses.
These reports show that the number of executions in Iran is down compared with previous years, mainly thanks to a new law that has replaced the death sentence with long prison terms or fines for many drug offenses. The new law is expected to change the fate of 5,300 people currently on death row.
Despite the reduction in capital punishment sentences for drug offenders, human rights groups still criticize Iran’s judiciary for the continued execution of those who were minors at the time of their alleged crimes.
“Iran is a signatory to two international treaties that prohibit capital punishment for offenses committed by minors. But that has not stopped the country from being the worst international offender when it comes to executing such juveniles,” the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said February 16 in a statement.
Furthermore, UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville reaffirmed at a press conference, "The execution of juvenile offenders is unequivocally prohibited under international law."
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), only Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, have executed child offenders since 2013.
Civil society activists in Iran also denounce the continued practice of public hangings organized to attract as much attention as possible. According to HRW, Iranian authorities executed 31 people in public spaces in 15 provinces in 2017. The majority of those executed in public were convicted of murder and were sentenced to qisas (retribution in kind), followed by rape or sexual assault and Moharebeh (waging war against God), IHR reported.
Video: Iran’s Child Offenders on Death Row