Iran has been executing people at a rate of one person every six hours over the past ten days, according to rights monitors.
Some 42 people, just over half of which were of the Baluch ethnic minority, were executed by Iranian authorities in the 10 days covered by a report from Iran Human Rights (IHR).
The news of the execution spree came as Iranian authorities announced that they had killed Swedish-Iranian dual national Habib Farajollah Chaab on Saturday.
The Swedish foreign ministry condemned Chaab’s execution. He was alleged to have been behind an attack that killed dozens of people at a military parade in the southern province of Khuzistan in 2018, state media said.
The executions reported by IHR were mostly for alleged drug offences. While the widespread street anti-government street protests have died down across most of Iran they have continued every Friday in Sistan-Baluchistan, which is home to the Baluch minority.
At least 194 people have been executed in Iran so far this year, according to the group’s count. The number is a baseline minimum for Iran’s secretive death row. Only two of the 42 executions that they reported on Friday had been officially announced by authorities.
“The purpose of the executions are to create societal fear, not to fight crime,” said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of the Oslo-based NGO.
“The Islamic Republic has executed one person every six hours in the last ten days while the international community has remained silent. More than half of those executed were Baluch minorities and drug defendants from the most marginalised communities who are low-cost victims of the government’s killing machine,” he said.
Amnesty International earlier this year reported a “chilling” escalation of the death penalty against the Baluch minority, with most convicted on drug charges. Most of the group of 42 were alleged drug offenders.
Iran Human Rights said that at least 256 people were executed for drug-related offences in 2022, a rate that is ten times higher than 2020. The rising figures suggest that Iran could be backtracking on its widely applauded 2017 drug amendment law.
The amendment, which for a few years was seen as an effort to curb the use of the death penalty, raised the threshold for imposing the death penalty in drug trafficking cases.
Natural substances, such as opium and cannabis, were raised to 50 kilograms from five. For synthetic substances, such as heroin, cocaine and amphetamines, it was raised to two kilograms up from 30 grams.
It comes after intelligence officials said a British-Iranian citizen hanged in Tehran in January was a spy.
Alireza Akbari, 62, Iran’s former deputy defence minister, began giving information, including nuclear secrets, to Britain in 2004 and continued doing so for 15 years, sources told the New York Times.
Iran charged Mr Akbari with being a MI6 agent but the British government has never acknowledged he was a spy.