Noose (illustration)
Noose (illustration) Thinkstock

A disturbing new trend is on the rise in Iran, according to Amnesty International. 

Execution orders have risen dramatically since 2014 in the Islamic Republic, according to new statistics revealed by the watchdog group. In the 21 days since 2014 began, more than 40 orders have been issued - more than 33% of them in this past week alone. 

"The sharp rise in executions in Iran so far this month is alarming," said Hassiba Hadja Sahraoui, Deputy Program Manager for Amnesty International in the Middle East and North Africa. "Iranian authorities are trying to change their international image, but it's meaningless if executions are being ordered at the same time."

The organization emphasized that "the death penalty is a violation of the right to life of every human and is cruel, inhuman humiliating." As for Iran, “the Iranian authorities must urgently take steps to abolish the death penalty, which has been shown again and again not to have any special deterrent effect on crime,” Sahraoui said. 

Since the beginning of 2014, Amnesty International has documented 21 executions officially ordered by Iranian authorities, and 19 more executions have been reported from trusted sources, according to the organization.

"Public executions are usually carried out by a crane, which lifts a noose hanging around the neck of the condemned," the organization noted. 

The organization continued to call on the Islamic Republic to mitigate all sentences to death to lighter sentences - and to end "the shroud of secrecy" regarding executions. Execution orders, Amnesty International explained, are often carried out behind closed doors, in trials held by revolutionary courts, where defendants may have restricted access to legal defense and where sentences are often given in secret. 

“In Iran drug-related offenses are tried in Revolutionary Courts which routinely fall far short of international fair trial standards. The reality in Iran is that people are being ruthlessly sentenced to death after unfair trials, and this is unacceptable,” Sahraoui stated.

The statistics bear an alarming resemblance to the organization's 2011 survey, which concluded that Iran had been executing dissidents at the rate of about 2 people per day.

Local lawmakers suspected political motivations behind the spike - motivations which have also caused defense lawyers to flee Iran, according to an Amnesty International 2010 video.  

Back in July, Iranian opposition groups and human rights activists similarly decried attempts to portray the Iranian regime under President Hassan Rouhani as "moderate", pointing out that the government had executed more than 60 people in the month following his election alone.

Many of those executed have tended to be members of the Baloch community, who are fighting for independence from Tehran. In October, Iranian authorities hanged 16 Baloch rebels in retaliation for a militant attack which killed 14 Iranian border guards in the region.

Western Balochistan has been occupied by Iran since 1928.