The secretary of a religious watchdog office in Iran has admitted that since the establishment of the Islamic Republic four decades ago (1979), the authorities have executed 15,000 people for drug-related crimes.
The mid-ranking clergy, Jalil Mohebbi, presented the data in a session attended by the head of the Islamic Republic Judiciary.
According to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-linked Fars news agency, the spokesman of the judiciary, Parviz Esmaeili, when asked, dismissed the data as "inaccurate" and "devoid of required precision", saying it should not be published.
Behind China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam, and Iraq are respectively the leading countries in the world where the death penalty is carried out.
According to Amnesty International, Iran is one of the last few countries in the world that still executes juvenile offenders. International human rights law strictly prohibits the use of the death penalty against a person who was under 18 at the time of the crime.
"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," deputy director Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, Said Boumedouha, said in 2015.
In his latest report, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman noted that while executions in the country declined from 507 in 2017 to 253 in 2018, the country still has one of the highest numbers of executions in the world.
An amendment in the law on narcotics-related crimes has played a pivotal role in decreasing the number of executions in Iran.