The U.S.-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) released a report (PDF) today revealing the names of 101 victims of secret executions in Iran. Defining secret as those that “are not publicly reported by authorities and the victim’s family and lawyers have no prior knowledge that the sentence is set to be carried out,” the group documented 101 such executions at only a single prison — Vakilabad — for a period in late 2010. Since January of that year, the group has documented 471 secret executions, with at least 161 in 2011 alone.
In comment to ICHRI, Nobel laureate and Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi put the practice in perspective, ascribing to it a political, and not anti-crime motive:
The Iranian judiciary and government know that the death penalty is not a suitable solution for fighting crime, particularly drug-related crimes. The basic question is this: why does the Iranian government use this type of punishment with such enthusiasm? The issue is that these executions only create fear and intimidation and serve only a political purpose. All of the statistics show that while the number of executions have increased the number of drug-related crimes have not decreased at all.
Iran executed a total of about 600 people in 2011. In 2010, the last year for which comprehensive statistics are available, Amnesty International placed Iran second on the world’s list for putting people to death (PDF). Since 2007, Iran is also second in total executions, only behind China which kills thousands a year and keeps exact figures secret.
In a December report, Amnesty said 81 percent of death penalties in Iran were for drug-related offenses, and called on Iran to stop the executions. The State Department’s country reports on human rights for 2010 also made a prominent issue of executions in Iran, documenting many cases of those sentenced to death, and raising the issue of secret executions:
According to multiple sources, the government executed approximately 312 persons in summary executions during the year, many after trials that were conducted in secret or did not adhere to basic principles of due process.
With the release of the ICHRI report, the group’s head Hadi Ghaemi said: “Iran has shown an inability to use the death penalty in a legal and accountable manner. With skyrocketing execution numbers marred by unfair trials and opaque judicial proceedings, it’s time for Iran to institute a moratorium and join the growing trend towards abolition.”