December 8, 2022 | Flash Brief

Iran Surpasses 500 Executions in 2022

December 8, 2022 | Flash Brief

Iran Surpasses 500 Executions in 2022

Latest Developments 

Tehran executed a prisoner today for allegedly wounding a paramilitary officer during nationwide protests, the first formal execution of a demonstrator since the unrest began in September. The sentence reportedly followed a brief trial devoid of due process in which the conviction rested on a confession elicited through torture. Iran has executed more than 500 people to date in 2022, constituting “the highest rate in five years,” according to the Norway-based nonprofit Iran Human Rights (IHR). This figure does not include the more than 450 protesters whom security forces have killed since September.

Expert Analysis

“Tehran’s frequent executions have rightly earned it the enmity of the Iranian people. The United States should explicitly endorse the Iranian people’s call for regime change and state that no nuclear agreement with Iran is on the table so long as the regime continues its systematic violations of human rights.”
Tzvi Kahn, FDD Research Fellow and Senior Editor

Criteria for Death Sentences

Under Iranian law, the number of crimes subject to capital punishment ranks among the world’s highest, including adultery, sodomy, apostasy, drug use, and moharebeh (waging war against God) — a nebulous charge the regime mainly employs to punish those whom it perceives as opponents of its radical Islamist ideology. “There are extensive, vague and arbitrary grounds in Iran for imposing the death sentence, which quickly can turn this punishment into a political tool,” said Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, in October 2021.

Lack of Due Process

Tehran often executes defendants without any semblance of due process. In a July 2022 report, Rehman said he “remains extremely concerned at the continued use of interrogation methods that do not conform to international standards, including denial of access to counsel of choice, prolonged interrogations, extraction of confessions under torture or other forms of ill-treatment.” Iran regularly broadcasts forced confessions on state media.

Executions of Juvenile Offenders

Iran is the world’s top executioner of juvenile offenders. An October 2022 report by UN Secretary-General António Guterres found that 85 minors remain on death row. “Islamic law allows for the execution of juvenile offenders starting at age nine for girls and age 13 for boys, the legal age of maturity,” according to the State Department’s 2021 annual report on human rights in Iran.

A Biased Judiciary

Tehran’s extensive use of the death penalty reflects the will of Iran’s supreme leader, who directly appoints the head of the judiciary, who in turn appoints all judges. In 2010, the United States imposed human rights sanctions on the current judiciary head, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, who previously served as Iran’s repressive minister of intelligence (2005-2009), attorney general (2009-2014) and deputy judiciary chief (2014-2021).

Related Analysis

Torture TV: The Case for Sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s State-Run Media,” by Toby Dershowitz and Talia Katz

Iran’s Executions Continue After Rouhani’s Reelection,” by Tzvi Kahn


Iran Iran Human Rights