In what the AFP calls one of the largest mass execution in years, 29 men were hanged at the notorious Evin prison. Tehran Chief Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi claims, "These convicts had long criminal records and after being released from prison they again entered the drug smuggling groups and returned to the same criminal activities." Meanwhile, 8 women and 1 man await execution by stoning, sentences that could be administered at any moment.
The Islamic Republic of Iran claims the death penalty promotes Islamic social welfare and deters crime. Capital offenses in Iran include murder, adultery, rape, drug trafficking, and armed robbery. Under Iran's Islamic laws, adultery remains the only capital offense punishable by stoning.
The human rights group, the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, run by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi denounced the hangings, "It seems that the hanged men were deprived of a fair judicial procedure... No authority has the right to deprive defendants of their rights during the arrest, trial and tribunal procedures as well as the right to legal representation."
On Tuesday, July 15, U.S. Department of State Spokesman Sean McCormack issued a press statement that pledged U.S. support for fundamental freedoms in Iran including due process of law and fair trials. Furthermore, the United States stands committed, "to work with the international community through the United Nations and foreign governments to focus attention on the Iranian regime's human rights abuses."
Last Thursday, the EU's presidency called attention to Iran's pledge "to introduce a moratorium on stoning." "The European Union calls on the Iranian government and parliament to abolish, in law and in practice, recourse to cruel and degrading punishment and, in particular the use of stoning, as a method of execution." The EU also urged Iran to halt the 9 stoning executions and to commute the death sentences.
Iran with a population of 70 million is second only to China in executions with a population of 1.3 billion. The UK's 2007 annual human rights report noted a "rapid increase" in Iranian executions as conditions appear to be "deteriorating." Amnesty International reported 317 people were executed last year compared to 117 in 2006, although the actual figures are likely higher as the Iran regime does not publish official statistics on the number of executions.
Earlier this month the Majlis considered a bill to impose capital punishment on those who promote corruption, prostitution, and apostasy on the Internet. In preventing further Iranian rights violations, the United States, the European Union, and the rest of the international community must live up to the promises enshrined in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights and hold the regime in Iran accountable for its human rights abuses. Iran too must do its part for its people and inspire justice and human dignity through a principled judicial system.