Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran – 2018

A Review

By Ondřej Novák - The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the leading countries for number of executions each year. In 2018, at least 273 people were executed by the Iranian authorities. Of those 273 executions, only 93 were official. The remaining 180 were not officially announced by the state but evidence of them was gathered by organisations like the Iran Human Rights (IHR), which is an international non-governmental organization founded in 2005 based in Oslo, Norway.

 

IHR focuses on three main activities including:  fighting for the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, promoting due process and the rule of law and defending human rights activists. The organisation has members both inside and outside of the country. These members gather information, provide support to human rights activists and create global awareness about executions in Iran. IHR includes, in their annual reports on the death penalty, all the executions that were officially announced and those executions which were not made public but IHR was able to confirm via independent sources. In their latest report, IHR highlights that the amount of executions in 2018 was the lowest figure recorded since their first report in 2007. IHR states, that the considerable decrease of executions is a result of international pressure as well as enforcement of the new Anti-Narcotics law from 2017, which, among other things, limits the use of death penalty for drug related crimes.

 

Of those 273, 188 people were executed on murder charges, for drugs, 23 people for rape and 38 people were executed under charges of Moharebeh and Corruption on earth [1]. Among those executed were 5 women and 6 juvenile offenders under the age of 18. Iran is one of the few countries that executes juvenile offenders. Iran’s Penal Code (IPC) defines the age of criminal responsibility for girls at the age of 9 lunar years (8.7 years old) and for boys at the age of 15 lunar years (14.6 years old). The latest IPC of 2013 provides alternative sentences for juveniles, but in cases of hudud and qisas the offender still faces a death sentence [2]. Iran ratified several international human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). However, the regime stated that it will only abide by the treaties as long as they are not in conflict with national legislation. As a result, Iran does not regularly follow the rules set in the treaties.

 

Furthermore, Iranian officials often break internal legislation, which grants the defendants the right of a due process and access to a lawyer. IHR documented many cases where the defendants were tortured in order to confess, denied access to a lawyer or faced a trial without possibility of mounting a defence. In many cases, confession under torture is the only evidence provided by the prosecution. In case there are no eye witnesses and no confession from the defendant, the judge can make a decision based on his exclusive opinion. The use of the Qassameh is also increasing. It is a form of an oath, where a certain number of members of the victim’s family swear an oath on the Quran to prove the guilt of the defendant. The IPC provides several options to carry out an execution, including the firing squad, crucifixion or stoning. However, hanging is the preferred method of execution since Tehran faced extensive international pressure to halt executions by stoning. Most executions are carried out inside prison facilities, but since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, many executions are carried out in public spaces to spread fear and force obedience.


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The Euro-Gulf Information Centre will continue to monitor and support human rights development in Iran. Brussels-Tehran trade relations provides the European Union with significant bargaining power over the Islamic Republic. A good example of this is the decrease and subsequent abolition of stoning as a method of execution. Currently, the short-term goal of IHR is putting an end to the execution of juvenile offenders and ending the practice of public executions. This can be achieved with a combination of continuous international pressure and creating awareness among the Iranian people.

[1] Moharebeh - Article 279 of the IPC defines mohareb (a person who fights God) as someone who takes up arms in specific cases. This includes bandits, robbers and smugglers who take up arms (Article 281 of the IPC).  
Article 282 of the IPC delivers a death sentence in the case of moharebeh. However, the judge has the option of imposing an alternative punishment of crucifixion, amputation of the right hand and left foot or internal exile away from the defendant’s home town.
Corruption on earth - Article 286 of the IPC defines “corruption on earth” as “a person who commits a crime on an extensive level against the physical integrity of others or domestic or external security, spreads lies, disrupts the national economic system, undertakes arson and destruction, disseminates poisonous, microbiological and dangerous substances, establishes corruption and prostitution centres or assists in establishing them.”

 

[2] Hudud – in Arabic means borders or limits set by God and  refers to crimes and subsequent punishments described in the Islamic Law Sharia

Qisas – is a form of retribution (eye for an eye), where the family of the victim can demand execution or some other form of punishment. They can also demand a “blood” money instead of the death sentence or they can grant forgiveness

03 May 2019

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