Several reports of execution without due process, public hangings, arbitrary killings, and death sentencing have emerged from Iran this week.
Iran, which boasts the world’s highest execution rate per capita and has an abysmal record regarding the treatment of its prisoners, has been known to abduct or detain individuals without explanation and hold them indefinitely or even execute them.
Several high-profile killings have increased global awareness of the problem of corporal punishment and treatment of prisoners in Iran in recent years.
This week, an unnamed man was hanged in Shiraz Prison, near Tehran, for unspecified reasons, according to the Zandan Iran blog.
Two young male prisoners were also publicly hanged in Karaj, Tehran’s fourth-largest city, after being convicted of raping a woman by Iran’s Supreme Court, said Jam News, a state-run website in Iran.
In Arak, the capital of Iran’s Markazi Province, human rights activists have said that at least two prisoners were hanged on drug-related charges in Central Arak Prison on December 25. The men, identified as Valliollah Reshno and Oodrat Ibrahimi, were hanged in the courtyard of the prison at dawn; three men were witnessed heading to the courtyard, although the identity of the third man could not be obtained.
“Without doubt, we will have firm and hefty punishments for drug related crimes”, said Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s Human Rights Staff. He added that about 90% of executions in the country are related to drug crimes.
The week also saw the extensive use of cruel and unusual punishments on citizens. A famous TV and film actor was subject to 90 lashes and a yearlong ban on acting for charges of sexual infidelity, said Fars, a state-run news agency.
In Orumieh Prison, security officers cut off the fingers of prisoners and forced other prisoners to watch as “a lesson”. The finger amputations were carried out for charges of robbery. Sources said that the two prisoners, who are brothers, had the punishment carried out in front of 70 other prisoners.
A public flogging also took place in the city of Iranshahr, after an announcement by the United Nations made explicit the fact that public floggings are inhumane, humiliating and illegal before international law.
Perhaps most notably, it was discovered that 7500 men, women and children have been sleeping in graves inside and around Cemeteries in Tehran due to extreme cold and lack of resources. Dozens of families also live around the area in tents.
The report of the families living in the cemetery prompted town officials to beat and forcibly expel them from the cemetery, moments before the arrival of concerned reporters, aid workers and individuals who wanted to help the beleaguered families.
“We don’t even have a grave to sleep in anymore”, one man said.
While such events can seem extraordinary in the modern world, they occur regularly in a country where internal events rarely meet with a great deal of international scrutiny.
Part of the reason why is that Iran has undertaken an extensive public relations campaign to refurbish its image in the eyes of the international community. Nominally reformist President Rouhani pledged to curb human rights abuses during his campaign, and the Iran Nuclear Deal has opened up new possibilities for Iran’s government to do business with Western businesses and governments.
Yet Rouhani’s record on human rights shows the issues in Iran to be worsening, not improving, since he took office in 2013. Prisoners who escaped from Iran claim that on all counts the situation has worsened in the Iranian penal system, and execution numbers have remained the world’s highest by population.
This is why Iranian dissident groups, like the PMOI and NCRI, have encouraged Western governments not to conduct business with Tehran on the grounds that realities in Iran remain harshly repressive and anti-democratic.