Release of the 12th Annual Report on the death penalty in Iran

31 March 2020

The figure is alarming and echoes the concerns of human rights defenders: at least 280 people were executed last year in Iran, which remains the country with the highest death penalty in the world after China. The 12th annual report on the death penalty in Iran, carried out by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and ECPM, assesses and analyzes the trends related to this practice in order to provide appropriate recommendations and engage in a constructive dialogue.

Its publication takes place in an unprecedented climate of mourning over the repression of the November 2019 protests - the largest and bloodiest in Iran since the 1980s - and the dramatic consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic, which has caused more than 2,600 deaths since the beginning of the year, making Iran one of the most affected countries in the world. In this global fight against the coronavirus, human rights must not be forgotten.

See the infographics

Overview of the report


The report compares the trend with previous years, and presents the international and national legislative framework, procedures, charges, geographic distribution and monthly breakdown of executions, as well as lists of the female and juvenile offenders executed in 2019 (see the infographics).

Once again, Iranian authorities continued systematic violations of due process and the rule of law.

Lack of access to a lawyer after the arrest, televised confessions, and reports of torture, are reminders that sustainable improvements in the status of human rights, are not possible without fundamental changes within the Iranian judicial system.

It is being published while thousands of Iranians are mourning the loss of their loved ones who were killed by the Islamic Republic’s security forces under the November 2019 nationwide protests. The crackdown on the civil society has been unprecedented and many human rights defenders and lawyers have been sentenced to heavy prison sentences.

In March 2019, Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raeisi as the new Head of the Judiciary. Raeisi is known for having played a key role in the
mass-execution of several thousands of political prisoners during summer 1988, which have been widely recognized as crimes against humanity.

The Iranian society has entered a new phase, as the people are struggling for fundamental changes. The year 2019 started with smaller protests and ended in the largest and bloodiest protests in Iran since the 1980’s. There are no indications that the protests will stop at this point.


With the launch of this report, IHR and ECPM call upon the international community as well as Iran’s European dialogue partners, to press for a moratorium on use of the death penalty, and for major reforms in the country’s judicial system, which does not meet minimum international standards. Iranian leadership and all organs involved in crackdown must be held accountable by the international community.

IHR and ECPM call on Iranian authorities to seriously consider the recommendations made in this report, and the UPR recommendations made by the members of the Human Rights Council. Imposing a 5-year moratorium on the death penalty, releasing all prisoners of conscience including human rights defenders and lawyers, granting freedom of assembly and serious reforms in the judicial system in accordance with international standards are among the recommendations that Iranian authorities must adopt as first steps towards fundamental and peaceful reforms.

“It is in the Islamic Republic of Iran that the highest number of executions per capita is recorded. It is in the Islamic Republic of Iran that the highest proportion of women and juveniles are executed. These odious practices distort the true face of Islam, a religion that professes the pre-eminence of love and life over hate and death.

For those of us who are secular and abolitionist, such practices dishonour the power which devotes itself to them and humiliate the nation in the name of which these legal murders are implemented. Iran and its people, heirs to a long and glorious history, deserve better than this bloody record. The inevitable and imminent day when the death penalty will disappear from Iran will be a day of jubilation, a victory for life over death, for all abolitionists – and first of all in Iran.”

Extract of the Foreword by Robert Badinter, Honorary Chair of ECPM, Former Minister of Justice of France.

Photo © Christophe Meireis
Photo © Christophe Meireis