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U.N. says Iran on pace for "frighteningly" high number of state executions this year

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Geneva — U.N. human rights chief Volker Turk said Tuesday that Iran has executed a "frighteningly" high number of people this year, rising to more than ten per week on average. At least 209 people were executed in the country since January 1, primarily for drug-related offenses, but a United Nations statement said the actual number is likely much higher.

"On average so far this year, over ten people are put to death each week in Iran, making it one of the world's highest executors," said Turk.

"At this rate, Iran is worryingly on the same track as last year when around 580 people were reportedly executed," he added, calling this track record "abominable."

People protesting simulating being hanged during a
People march in a protest against state executions and human rights violations in Iran, as they head toward the Iranian embassy in Madrid, Spain, Feb. 11, 2023. Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket/Getty

Iran on Monday hanged two men on charges of spreading blasphemy on social media, prompting U.S. condemnation and accusations from Amnesty International that the Islamic republic had reached a "new low" in a spree of executions.

On Saturday, Iran executed Swedish-Iranian dissident Habib Chaab for "terrorism," prompting sharp criticism from Sweden and the European Union.

The U.N. said at least 45 people, including 22 from the Baluch minority, were executed in the last 14 days alone. Most were executed for drug-related charges.

"Imposing the death penalty for drug offenses is incompatible with international human rights norms and standards," said Turk. "The Human Rights Committee... is clear on prohibiting imposition of the death penalty for any but the 'most serious crimes' — crimes of extreme gravity, involving intentional killing. Drug offenses do not meet this threshold."

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