IHR (MAR14, 2016): Since the election of Hassan Rouhani in June 2013, at least 2162 people have been executed in Iran. A comparison between the two and a half years after Hassan Rouhani’s election and the two and a half years before his election show an increase of 43% in the number of executions.
Most of the executions carried out in Iran have been for drug related offenses. The Iranian authorities claim that many of those sentenced to death for drug related charges are involved in organized armed smuggling. However, there is an overall lack of transparency in the Iranian judicial process, those convicted of drug-related charges were tried by the revolutionary courts behind closed doors, and most of those executed are not identified by name. IHR and other human rights groups received many reports of unfair trials and confessions under torture. Investigations by IHR indicate that most of the individuals who were executed in Iran on drug related charges were not involved in armed drug smuggling, did not have access to a fair trial or a just investigation, and were denied access to a lawyer. Witness statements given to IHR indicate that people arrested and accused of possession or trafficking of drugs, are systematically tortured in the detention centres until they give a confession.
The dramatic increase in the number of executions after the election of President Rouhani has been, according to some, a reflection of the power struggle between the conservative Judiciary and the “moderate” government of President Rouhani. Although it is the judiciary which issues and implements death sentences, neither President Rouhani nor members of his cabinet have expressed any dissatisfaction about the large number of executions. To date, there has been no indication that President Rouhani or his government opposes the executions in Iran. Mr Rouhani’s interior minister has even warned the Judiciary against softening capital punishment.
In a rare interview in November 2015 with an Italian publication Hassan Rouhani defended executions in Iran: “Most executions in Iran are related to drug trafficking crimes…If we abolish the death penalty, we would make it easier for drugs to enter European countries, and that would be dangerous for you.” This response was almost echoed by Javad Zarif in a hearing at the European Parliament in February 2016: “Iran captures and seizes 85% of the total amount of opium seized in the world…” In the same speech Mr Zarif also claimed that anti-narcotics enforcement actions in Iran are carried out honestly and responsibly.