Amnesty International has condemned a recent sharp rise in the rate of public executions in Iran - which have included the first executions of juvenile offenders in the world this year.
Since the start of 2011, up to 13 men have been hanged in public, compared to 14 such executions recorded by Amnesty from official Iranian sources in the whole of 2010. Eight of these executions have taken place since 16 April 2011.
On 20 April, two juvenile offenders - identified only as “A.N” and “H.B” - were among three individuals hanged in public in Bandar Abbas, southern Iran, after being convicted over a rape and murder committed when they were only 17. A fourth man was hanged at the same time for rape.
On 16 April, three men were also hanged in public in Shiraz for murder, armed robbery and kidnapping. A fourth man was hanged on the same day near Kazeroun in Fars Province after being convicted of four counts of murder.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
“Yet again, Iran has distinguished itself by being the only country this year to execute juvenile offenders. No more juvenile offenders must die at the hands of the state.
“Not only were these young men executed for crimes committed when aged under 18, but their executions were carried out in public.
“It is deeply disturbing that despite a moratorium on public executions ordered in 2008, the Iranian authorities are once again seeking to intimidate people by such spectacles which not only dehumanise the victim, but brutalise those who witness it.
“Public executions are not only a violation of the right to life, but are a gross affront to human dignity which cannot be tolerated.”
In Iran public executions are usually carried out by cranes which lift the condemned person by a noose around the neck. They are advertised in advance.
Iran is one of the only countries that still imposes the death penalty on juvenile offenders - those convicted of an alleged crime committed before they were 18 - and was the only country known to have executed a juvenile offender in 2010. Executions of juvenile offenders are strictly prohibited under international law. UN human rights experts have made it clear that executions in public serve no legitimate interest and only increase the cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of this punishment.
There was a sharp rise in the rate of executions in Iran in December 2010 and January 2011, with at least 86 people executed in January alone. The rate fell significantly in February after international condemnation of the earlier rise, but has risen again since the end of the Iranian New Year holiday in early April.
According to official sources, at least 135 people - ten in public - have been executed so far this year. Credible reports suggest over 40 other executions - three of which were said to have taken place in public in Salmas, north-west Iran, in February - have also taken place, though these have not been acknowledged by the authorities.
Last year the Iranian authorities acknowledged 252 executions in the country though Amnesty also received credible reports of more than 300 further executions which were not officially acknowledged.