The number of people executed in Iran on drugs-related charges has tripled this year compared with 2022, Amnesty International said Friday, warning such hangings were happening at a "shameless" rate.
Iran has hanged seven men in cases related to the protest movement that erupted last September, but campaigners have said hangings on all charges, particularly drugs-related, have surged in recent months.
The rights group said at least 173 people convicted of drugs-related offenses have been hanged this year "after systematically unfair trials," adding that the figure was nearly three times higher than at this time last year.
Such executions made up two-thirds of all the executions in Iran in the first five months of 2023, predominantly impacting "people from marginalized and economically disadvantaged backgrounds," Amnesty added.
It said members of Iran's Baluch ethnic minority accounted for around 20% of the recorded executions, "despite making up only 5% of Iran's population.”
"The shameless rate at which the authorities are carrying out drug-related executions, in violation of international law, exposes their lack of humanity and flagrant disregard for the right to life," said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Executions in Iran had fallen in recent years after a 2017 amendment to the country's anti-narcotics laws sought to limit the use of the death penalty for drugs-related offenses.
But campaigners now argue Iran is executing people on all charges in an attempt to strike fear into the population as the leadership seeks to quell the protest movement.
The U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs and member states that provide funding to its projects in Iran are now coming under increasing pressure to condemn the execution surge.
"The international community must ensure that cooperation in anti-drug trafficking initiatives do not contribute, directly or indirectly, to the arbitrary deprivation of life and other human rights violations in Iran," said Eltahawy.
Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) said Thursday at least 307 people have been executed in 2023, a rise of more than 75% compared with the same period last year, while at least 142 people were executed in May -- the highest monthly figure since 2015.
"If the authorities continue to carry out overall executions at this alarming pace, they could kill nearly a thousand prisoners by the end of this year," said Amnesty.