Revolutionary Courts Responsible for Majority of Executions in Iran


In the Iran Human Rights’ (IHR) annual report on the death penalty, the issue of due process and the role of the Revolutionary Courts in sentencing individuals to death.

The Revolutionary Courts were established in 1979 by the first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. They were meant to be temporary courts to deal with the officials of the former regime. However, they continue to operate more than 37 years later. These courts are less transparent than the Public Courts and these judges are known for greater abuse of their legal powers. These judges also often deny access to legal representation during the investigation phase and prevent lawyers from accessing client files on the basis of confidentiality, or the fact that lawyers have insufficient qualifications to review certain files.

Trials may only last a few minutes, with no jury, no defense lawyers and death sentences based on no evidence other than confessions extracted under torture. These are the hallmarks of these Revolutionary Courts.

These courts are also well-known for their part in the summary executions of the political opposition in the 1980s. Data collected by the IHR shows that every year several hundred people are executed on the basis of death sentences issued by these courts. This number is significantly higher than the number sentenced by the criminal courts.

As the regime has continued to crackdown on human rights activists and lawyers, the Revolutionary Courts have played a key part in stamping out any sign of opposition. In 2016, for example, the Revolutionary Courts sentenced the human rights defenders Nargges Mohammadi and Atena Daemi to 10 years and seven years in prison, respectively, for their activities against the death penalty.

At least 340 of the 530 executions in 2016 were based on death sentences issued by the Revolutionary Courts. They have had a higher number of those executions for the past six years, all the way back to 2010.

“A sustainable reduction in use of the death penalty is impossible as long as there is no due process. Revolutionary Courts, which sentence hundreds of people to death every year are among the key institutions responsible for Iran’s violations of due process and must be shut down,” said a spokesperson of the IHR.

All cases regarded as security related, such as cases involving political and civil activists, and others allegedly involved in corruption and drug-related charges, are processed by the Revolutionary Courts.

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