Alarming Surge in Executions in Iran: At Least 45 Executions in Seven Days

Over the past week, at least 45 prisoners, including two women, have been executed in various Iranian prisons for drug-related crimes and murder, marking a growing trend of execution in the country. HRANA has compiled a statistical analysis of the details of the executions during this period.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, there has been a noticeable increase in the execution of prisoners in Iranian prisons over the past week.

Based on the reports compiled by HRANA, the death sentences were carried out in several prisons, including Rajai Shahr (Karaj), Ghezel Hesar (Karaj), Urmia, Ardabil, Dastgerd (Isfahan), Vakilabad (Mashhad), Neishabur, Torbat-e-Jam, Rasht, Yazd, Birjand, Qazvin, Minab, Bandar Abbas, Zahedan, Khorramabad, and Iranshahr.

Out of the 45 executed prisoners, 29 were convicted of drug-related charges, while at least 15 were executed for murder.
At least 19 death-row prisoners were also transferred to solitary confinement in Salmas, Urmia, Khorin, Ghezel Hesar (Karaj), Yazd, Bandar Abbas, Birjand, and Zahedan, which could be a prelude to their execution. HRANA is investigating their fate, and the statistics presented in this report could increase.

As of the time of writing, most of these executions have not been announced by official sources or media inside Iran.

The issuance and execution of death sentences violate the right to live and have been heavily criticized by international organizations, with Iran ranking first globally in execution rate per capita.

In 2022, the Department of Statistics and Publication of Human Rights Activists in Iran registered 457 reports on the execution of 565 people and death sentences for 92 people, six of whom were sentenced to be hanged in public. Of these 565 executions, two death sentences were carried out in public, and five were juvenile offenders who were under 18 years old at the time of committing the alleged crime.

At least 192 people, including 8 women, have been executed in Iran from January 1 to May 5. The majority of these executions were for drug-related offenses and murder. Moreover, 71 death sentences were issued, and 27 other sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Court.

The breakdown of charges for these executions is as follows: 122 individuals were executed for drug-related offenses, 59 for murder, 6 for undisclosed charges, 1 for adultery, 1 for ideological charges, 1 for corruption, 1 for Moharebeh (political security), and 1 for non-political Moharebeh.

Skylar Thompson, the head of Global Advocacy and Accountability of Human Rights Activists, stated that “the surging rate of executions in Iran illustrates an utter disregard for human life. Under no circumstance does the ongoing use of the death penalty, for drug-related offenses in particular, amount to what is permittable under international law. Iranian authorities have an absolute obligation to uphold international human rights standards and instead, there is ongoing impunity for grave violations of the right to life–and more. The international community must not delay in sounding the alarm, they should call for a stay of executions for those currently facing execution and a moratorium on the death penalty, at a minimum, for crimes not amounting to “most serious” under international law.”


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By: Brian Currin

For: Spreading Justice initiative of Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA-SJ)

Table of Contents

I Introduction


As a point of departure, it is critical to note that the current situation, sparked, in chief, by the events that will be expounded on below, are dynamic, and information is constantly being updated and revised. Below is the information as best and widely reported as at early December 2022.

As per credible reports by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (‘HRANA’) – on the 13th of September 2022, Mahsa (Jhina) Amini was arrested at Taleghani Subway station of Tehran by an Iranian law enforcement group known as the Morality Police (whose main mandate is ‘enforcing Iran’s Islamic code of conduct’). Mahsa’s crime was, ‘improper Hijab’. Shortly after her arrest, she had to be transferred to hospital with concussions. She then went into a coma, succumbing to her injuries and dying in hospital, on the 16th of September of 2022. Eyewitnesses have stated they saw the Morality Police physically and brutally beat Mahsa; unsurprisingly the Morality Police rejected this version of events and incredulously claimed she had died of a heart attack while being under their custody. The evidence on Mahsa’s body contradicts this claim

As reported by media, this triggered the first wave of what are widely considered the most historical protests since the 1979 Revolutionary War. This is significant as many of our previous individual human rights’ abuse profiles had an aspect of stifling the right to protest; however, never at the scale and awareness of the protests which have followed the death of Mahsa. HRANA reports that:

‘The widespread protests sparked at the time Mahsa Amini was announced dead in front of Kasra Hospital on Argentina Street in Tehran, and then quickly spread to the streets despite the intimidating presence of Iran’s security forces. The protests intensified after Mahsa’s burial in a Saqqez cemetery. To the extent that after eighty-two days of nationwide protests between September 17, 2022, to December 7, 2022, they have spread to Iran’s all 31 provinces, 160 cities, and 143 major universities.’

‘The protests did not stay limited to Mahsa’s death, it rather, quickly targeted the Iranian government’s political and ideological foundations. These protests were violently quashed by the anti-riot police and Iran’s militia force (Basij). teargas, pellets, and live ammunition were used in           the repression of protestors. This widespread crackdown has led to the death of dozens of people and the wounding of hundreds of protestors.’

This initial 20-day protest has been characterised as being unique by the HRANA. Some of most pertinent distinguishing features are said to be:

  • While many of Iran’s protests end up in violation of human rights’, their spark is usually economic or environmental in nature. However, this protest was triggered directly by a human rights’ violation; the murder of Mahsa by state officials.
  • Mahsa was from an amalgamation of minority groups that are the subject of discrimination in Iran. She was Kurd and Sunni… yet this did not stop Iranians of all faiths and heritage from joining in the protests.
  • Iranians of all classes joined the protests.
  • Youth, with an estimated average age of 15 years, have played a pivotal role in the protests.
  • In terms of length, the protests are some of the most sustained.
  • The demands of the protesters have been unwavering on women’s rights – this suggests, contrary to how the state sees itself, a progressive, non-conservative society that yearns for the equality of human beings.
  • Iranian protests have a history of bloodshed and torture as security forces have no qualms with spilling blood indiscriminately, while arresting and beating unarmed protesters; a trend we have seen many a times in the previous profiles. This has led to many Iranians choosing to stay away in fear of their lives. However, during these protests there have been many instances of protestors showing solidarity, coming together to prevent people from being taken into custody or by standing in front of the police, equipped with full anti-riot gear.
  • In terms of internet solidarity, the Mahsa Amini hashtag is the first in the history of Twitter to record more than 384 million tweets.

All in all, the above points to unparalleled upheaval since the war. Iranians have decided that the killing of Mahsa signifies crossing the Rubicon – no more will they allow themselves to be defined by, and subsequently tortured by, the state and its apparatus.

Since the initial 82 day protests which saw a reported 481 identified civilian Iranians lose their lives (plus an indeterminate number of unidentified Iranians), and despite significant efforts from the Iranian authorities to stifle the protests, Iranians, to this day, are refusing to relent. Some of the subsequent developments are:

  • Almost half of the Internet service providers in Iran have seen a 50% drop in sales due to disruptions, censorship, and Internet shutdowns by the government during protests.
  • Iranian security forces are targeting protestors with shotgun fire to their faces, breasts, and genitals, according to interviews with medics across the country. One physician from the central Isfahan province said he believed the authorities were targeting men and women in different ways

‘I treated a woman in her early 20s, who was shot in her genitals by two pellets. Ten other pellets were lodged in her inner thigh. These 10 pellets were easily removed, but those two pellets were a challenge, because they were wedged in between her urethra and vaginal opening,” the physician said. “There was a serious risk of vaginal infection, so I asked her to go to a trusted gynaecologist. She said she was protesting when a group of about 10 security agents circled around and shot her in her genitals and thighs.’

  • Protests have been slightly quelled as government fights back the cries of freedom and equality – however various organisation of protests, including social media users, continuously report protests of various sizes across many of Iran’s cities and provinces. As recently as December 5, the Critical Threats Project (‘CTP’) reported that ‘at least 29 anti-regime protests took place in 18 cities across 16 provinces.’ These numbers have been fluctuating daily.
  • There have been conflicting messages on whether the regime will abolish the morality police. The regime will likely maintain and continue enforcing its mandatory hijab law regardless of whether it abolishes the morality police.
  • Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei ordered the relevant authorities to identify, arrest, and prosecute protesters organizing and promoting the countrywide strikes ‘quickly and decisively.’ Ejei accused protesters of coercing and manipulating the owners of businesses and shops to strike.
  • On the 8th of December, in what was Iran’s first judicial execution since the protests started, a 23-year old protester by the name of Mohsen Shekari, was hanged after being convicted for blocking a Tehran Street and wounding a paramilitary on September 25, after a legal process that rights groups denounced as a show trial. His official indictment cited ‘Moharebeh’ as his official crime – a wide discretionary crime of ‘waging war against God’ that has been covered throughout many of the profiles (and will be looked at further when the Iranian penal Code is discussed).


In an exercise situating the current state of affairs vis-à-vis protests in Iran, a formal look into international law follows by looking at various relevant international laws and their sources.
Customary International Law

There are two main requirements for the existence of customary international law; settled practice of states (usus) and the acceptance of an obligation to be legally bound (opinio juris). While the two are separate concepts, they do largely overlap and thus principles surrounding them cannot be isolated into mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive elements.

Usus (settled practice of states)

The practice must be general and widespread. Evidence of state practice is found in a variety of areas, including, but not limited to treaties, decisions of national courts, national legislation, diplomatic correspondence, policy statements by government officials, opinions of national law advisers, reports of the International Law Commission (‘ILC’) and comments by states on these reports, and resolutions of international organizations; the political organs of the United Nations in particular. A state’s practice can be sourced from many places.

Where states actively demonstrate their support for a particular rule, no problem of proof arises. Indeed, some states provide easy access to their practice by publishing official reports on this subject. However, in many cases, there will be no clear evidence of this kind. In these circumstances, it may be possible to infer consent or acquiescence to a practice from the inaction of states. The ILC says only ‘deliberate abstention from acting’ may count as state practice. From the above, it is clear, even if not intuitive, that practice is inferred not only from conduct, but from absence of conduct. This suggests that where international norms exist, i.e. non-trade in people/no slavery, it is from the deliberate opposite conduct to the norm, that practice is inferred. This would make sense for a country like North Korea that distances itself from the UN and its organs that its practice is to not form part of the international community. In a more legalistic and doctrinal manner (but perhaps more instinctive), the International Court of Justice (‘ICJ’) has, through its jurisprudence, insisted that constant and uniform usage or widespread acceptance of a rule constitutes a proper prerequisite for usus e.g. as said in the Asylum Case . Note that the widespread acceptance is not to be read as universal acceptance. Therefore, a country cannot escape being bound by a rule of customary law (usus) merely because it can point to a few states that are exceptions to the customary rule. For settled international custom, a state cannot plead the so called ‘persistent objector’ defence. It can probably be argued, successfully too, that if a state can point to their continuous objection to a particular practice, then it cannot be part of their practice; however this defence would only work at the point in time where the rule is still in the process of being developed. Once a practice is settled international custom, there is no ‘opt out’ clause. This point has been the subject of debate in the context of jus cogens conduct and international law, where for example, some states refused to accept South Africa’s persistent objection to treating apartheid as a violation of international customary law.  This is best explained on the ground that the prohibition on apartheid is a peremptory norm, a norm of jus cogens, to which the normal rules relating to the persistent objection do not apply.

Opinio Juris

A settled practice (usus) on its own is insufficient to create a customary rule. In addition, there must be a sense of legal obligation, a feeling on the part of the states that they are bound by the rule in question – that the general practice is accepted as law. In the North Sea Continental Shelf Cases between West Germany on one hand, and the Netherlands together with Denmark on the other, the ICJ stated:

            ‘Not only must the acts concerned amount to a settled practice, but they must also be such, or carried in such a way, as to be evidence of a belief that this practice is rendered         obligatory by the existence of a rule of law requiring it… The states concerned must             therefore feel that they are conforming to what amounts to a legal obligation.[2]

As with all subjective matters, evidence of opinio juris is difficult to prove. Difficult as it may be the evidence may be found in the same materials that are used for investigating state practice. A grouping of likeminded jurists and scholars of international law argue that a concrete example of the search for opinio juris is where there is a consistent and widespread (not necessarily unanimous) adoption of an annual resolution, which resolution may well constitute settled practice (i.e. usus) regarding a rule contained in the resolution. The resolution itself, however, cannot establish a rule of customary international law unless it can be shown, whether by reference to the content of the resolution or by some other forms of conduct, that the states adopting the resolution believe the rule in question to be one of customary international law. As with settled practice, the question of the silent states – those states that do not express an opinion to the legal status of a rule – arises. In these instances, silence can, in certain circumstances, be taken to imply the acceptance of a rule. This inference, however, can only be made when those states were able to react, and the circumstances called for some reaction.

Less technical is that a key feature of law is its universal applicability, not its universal acquiescence in the form of subjects opting in or out. It is this very option of opting out that make some commentators argue vehemently against international law being ‘law’ at all, for, as the argument goes, a law is binding and can never bow down to the intention of a subject to be bound by it. While the argument might not hold when it comes to treaties, I think it holds ground when it comes to international custom. Plural we may be; we all live in one world, with one human race.

My view, when it comes to the binding nature of international law not having to require opinio juris, is supported by one of the sources of customary international law i.e. Security Council resolutions. While the Security Council is not a legislative body (Security Council will be discussed), its resolutions are binding. Although the point of departure was combating terrorism, many of the Security Council’s resolutions have had the effect of creating international custom in relation to human rights. ‘Beginning with its adoption of resolution 1456 (2003), the Security Council has also consistently and repeatedly affirmed that states must ensure that any measures taken to counter terrorism, comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law… .’ This means that states can only counter terrorism effectively if they meet obligations under international law, with human rights being singled out. While the resolution can be read in full, the basic thinking is that if a state cannot respect the human rights of its own citizens – what chance do foreign citizens have? More formally and recently, in its resolution 2178 (2014), the Council stated that failure to comply with these and other international obligations (respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms etc.) including under the Charter of the United Nations, fosters a sense of impunity and is one of the factors contributing to increased radicalization. I would thus argue that ‘international obligations’ can be directly substituted with, among others, ‘international customary law’ as it would cause an absurdity for a country not to have any international obligations vis-à-vis human rights, simply because they do not feel bound by it.

UN Charter and Treaties

The focus in this section of the article is not on treaties in general, but as they relate to human rights.

As a point of departure, it is helpful to locate human rights in its post-world war II development. In 1945, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and France established an international military tribunal to try Nazi leaders for crimes against the peace, and war crimes; the Nuremberg trial. Trying similar charges, was the subsequent Tokyo trial.

[1] See Dugard’s International Law for references of below

[2] North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (n 36).

The Nuremberg trial had a major impact on international law. It inspired criminal accountability for those responsible for war crimes and the systematic and large-scale violation of human rights and contributed substantially to the development of international humanitarian law. It was also the genesis of crimes against humanity and genocide jurisprudence. From a human rights perspective, the main significance of the Nuremberg precedent is that national leaders and government officials are no longer able to claim immunity before international courts from protection for egregious human rights violations by invoking the protection of municipal law or superior orders. What is of particular importance to note as we delve deeper into the relevant areas of the relevant treaties, is that neither Nazi Germany nor Japan were signatories to any international treaty (they did not exist at the time) – yet the officials were tried.

The United Nations’ (UN) commitment to human right was made clear in the preamble to the charter which reaffirms ‘faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the person, in the equal rights of men and women.’ Iran is a member state of the United Nations, joining it in 1945 as one of the original 50 founding members. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is an active member of the UN. The UN has actively partnered with Iran since 1950, opening in Tehran in 1950, one of the very first UN Information Centres worldwide. One wonders why and how the disconnect even exists. The Charter itself, when laying out the purpose of the United Nations, in Article 1(3) alludes clearly to the importance of human rights by stating that:

‘To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an            economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and         encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion;

Promote respect for human rights… without distinction as to… sex. Yet nearly 80 years later, the events described in the beginning of this article are as though the Charter never existed; or if it did, Iran, a founding member, has never heard of it. An escape for many countries has been Article 2(7) which states that:

‘Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to        intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state             or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present             Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures        under Chapter Vll.’

Chapter VII will be expounded on later, but in the second half of the 20th century, when Apartheid was doubling down on its brutality and decolonization, Article 2(7) essentially forced states to choose between the supremacy of domestic jurisdiction on one hand, and human rights on the other. The ICJ, in its Namibia Opinion[1] of as far back as 1971, dispelled any doubts on the above balancing act – it held that member states could not use Article 2(7) to sidestep, circumvent or blatantly contravene the legal obligations that were imposed on member states by the human rights charter.

There are several international instruments that deal with human rights. Two are specifically regarded as the cornerstone international covenants; namely The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’), along with The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (‘ICESCR’). Other international instruments are; International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (‘ICERD’), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (‘CEDAW’), Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (‘CAT’), Convention on the Rights of the Child (‘CRC’), International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (‘CMW’), International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (‘CED’) and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘CRPD’). Unfortunately, Iran is signatory only to the ICCPR – a treaty Iran acceded to and ratified on June 24, 1975.  This means Iran is fully, and voluntarily bound by this instrument.


The ICCPR can be divided into various parts. Part I is Article 1 and deals with self-determination. It provides for all peoples a right to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Part II (Articles 2 – 5) obliges parties to legislate where necessary to give effect to the rights recognised in the Covenant, to provide an effective legal remedy for any violation of those rights and importantly, entrenches the equality of all groups, while prohibiting all forms of discrimination. Important for the conduct regarding Mahsa and the subsequent squashing of protests are Article 2(1) which states:

      ‘Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant,           without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other            opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.’

The list is intentionally not exhaustive and clearly sets out sex as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

[1] Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia (South West Africa) notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (1970) 1971 ICJ Reports 16.

Article 2(2) states:

      ‘Where not already provided for by existing legislative or other measures, each State Party to    the present Covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its   constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such laws or      other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant.’

This means Iran has an obligation, not only to not violate the rights, but to create, within their domestic legal framework, legislation that recognises and protects all the rights provided for in the Covenant, ‘notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.’

Part III (Articles 6 – 27) then set out the actual rights provided for in detail. Importantly these rights apply to everyone (men and women), without any discrimination, and the state has an obligation to both protect these rights and provide remedies for when violated. More specifically and important for our analysis; Articles 6 – 8 deal with the right to life. Torture or any cruel and degraded treatment is prohibited:


Article 6

  1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
  2. In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the             Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only             be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court.
  3. When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and             Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
  4. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.
  5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.
  6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.

Article 7 provides that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation;

Articles 9 -11 deal with the security and liberty of the person. Articles 14 – 16 deal with fair trial and procedural fairness guarantees; Articles 12, 13, 17 – 24 deal with individual liberty, in the form of the freedoms of movement, thought, conscience and religion, speech, association and assembly, family rights, the right to a nationality, and the right to privacy. I set out the relevant ones in full.

Its appropriate for present purposes to quote verbatim from Articles 18, 19, 21 and 22.

            Article 18:

  1. 1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or             belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
  2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
  3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
  4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

            Article 19

  1. 1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
  3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

      (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health         or morals.

            Article 21

      The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the     exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law, and which are   necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights    and freedoms of others.

            Article 22

  1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
  2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals       or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the        imposition of lawful restrictions on members of the armed forces and of the police in their exercise of this right.
  3. Nothing in this article shall authorize States Parties to the International Labour Organisation Convention of 1948 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the     Right to Organize to take legislative measures which would prejudice, or to apply the         law       in such a manner as to prejudice, the guarantees provided for in that Convention.

Part IV (Articles 28 – 45) are more operational and speak to the establishment of a human rights committee; Part V (Articles 46 -47) situates the Covenant amongst the United Nations machinery and finally, Part VI (Articles 48 – 53) deals with the technicalities and procedures of the Covenant itself, such as ratifying or amending etc.

The Articles set out in full above are of the greatest importance when analysing the conduct of Iranian officials during this period.

Soft Law

These are the so called ‘imprecise standards’, generated by declarations adopted by diplomatic conferences or resolutions of international organisations, that are intended to serve as guidelines to states in their conduct, but which lack the status of ‘law’. One such example is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (‘UDHR’). Although admittedly not binding, it provides an important framework that the UN General assembly, Security Council (remembering that Security Council resolutions are binding on all states) and the Human Rights Commission often refer to when they interpret and apply the human rights clauses of the Charter.

The UDHR is not a treaty, but a recommendatory resolution of the UN General Assembly. Some argue that it now forms part of International Customary Law. In 1968, at an international conference on human rights in Iran (Ironically), the Tehran (ironically) proclamation stated that:

The UDHR states a common understanding of the peoples of the world concerning the        inalienable and inviolable rights of all members of the human family and constitutes an       obligation for the members of the international community.’

While others oppose this as too far reaching for all countries of the world, it is widely accepted that the UDHRs basic principles such as non-discrimination, rights to a fair trial, and the prohibitions on torture, cruel inhuman or degrading treatment etc., undoubtably belong to the corpus of international customary law even though they may not always be observed.


The impugned Iranian law is the infamous Islamic Penal Code (‘IPC’) of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Section 1 deals with ‘The Punishments and Security and Correction Measures’. The punishments provided for in this law include five types: 1- Hudud 2- Qisas 3- Diyat 4- Ta’zirat 5- Deterrent punishments. Worrying are:

Article 13 – Hadd is the punishment which its type and amount and quality is prescribed by Shari’a. Hadd punishment is implemented by stoning, whipping, lashing etc., usually to death.

Article 14 –Qisas [retaliation or eye-for-an-eye] is the punishment to which the criminal shall be sentenced and is equal to his/her crime.

Article 16 –Ta’zir is the chastisement or punishment which its type and amount is not determined by Shari’a but left to discretion of the judge, such as imprisonment, fine and lashes; the number of lashes must be less than the number stipulated for Hadd punishment.

Section 2 deals with moharebeh and corruption on earth. Selected examples of these punishments are in article 190, Hadd punishment for moharebeh and corruption on earth is one of the following four punishments:

(a) The death penalty (with a Hadd method of death)

(b) Hanging on gallows

(c) Amputation of right hand and then left foot.

(d) Banishment.

Article 195 – Crucifixion of a mohareb and a corrupt on earth shall be executed as follows:

(a) Method of tying shall not kill him/her.

(b) S/he shall not remain crucified for more than three days, but if they die within three days, s/he can be taken down [from the cross].

(c) If s/he remains alive after three days [s/he] shall not be killed.

Article 196 -Amputation of the right hand and left foot of a mohareb and a corrupt on earth shall be executed by the same method as for the Hadd punishment for theft.

These come directly from the IPC.


International Customary Law crimes

There are five crystallised International Customary Law crimes, namely; Piracy, War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity (‘CAH’), Genocide and Torture.

The CAT defines torture as:

‘any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.’

The probable beating received by Mahsa at the hands of the morality police fits squarely in the definition of torture.

Systematic persecution of a group of people, in this instance a woman and religious minority, is an example of enumerated offenses under CAH for which a government officials could be responsible and held criminally liable.

International treaty crimes

              Over and above the detailed report of the first 82 days of nationwide protests provided by the HRA-SJ, a database of human rights violators in Iran, has also reported the weapons being used to suppress the nationwide protests in Iran. Shell casings found at scenes, along with brutal physical evidence found on the protesting victims themselves show evidence of violent weapons being used on protesters The weapons range from paintball guns to handguns and shotguns, to automatic and semi-automatic rifles such as the Kalashnikova (AK47) and Heckler & Koch G3.

The AK-47 is an assault rifle that operates with gas and is chambered for 7.62 x 39mm cartridge. The effective firing range for an AK-47 is between 300 to 400m and its maximum range is 2000m. The standard magazine capacities of this weapon are 30 or 75 rounds drum. The Heckler & Koch G3 has caliber of 7.62 and 51mm bullets. Its effective firing range is 200 to 400m and its standard magazine capacity is 30 as well as up to 100 round drum magazines. These are not tools used to disperse even the rowdiest of crowds. These are effective killing machines that have been used in wars, with the AK-47 playing a role even in the Iran Revolution. The weapons are reported to have been aimed at protesters faces and upper torso, evidence of an intention to kill and/or maim.

The use of these weapons has been attributed to the FARAJA forces. FARAJA at the time of protests was under the ultimate authority of Hossein Ashtari, the Chief Commander of Law Enforcement and Chief of Police. Ahmad-Reza Radan has been appointed to this position since January 7th 2023. Since Iran is signatory only to the ICCPR, the conduct of FARAJA in general, and Ashtari, will be tested against this instrument. However, as explained, this instrument, as one of only two cornerstone instruments on human rights, is more than adequate.

Right to life

As of the end of February 2023, it is reported that at least 528 civilians including minors have died. All 528 of these are in violation of Article 6 of the ICCPR as none of these killings have been by way of the death penalty (an exception to the right to life). These have been extra judicial killings and Iranians at the highest level of governance need to be held accountable.


The beatings of Mahsa and other protesters, the excessive use of force through assault rifles, the shooting of women genitals – all of these are examples of torture as described above. The conduct provided for in the HRANA report fits the definition of torture and thus Article 7 has also been breached.

Right to liberty

As of the end of February 2023, it is reported that 19,763 people have been arrested, including minors. This is an extraordinarily high number. While I do not have the benefit of a breakdown of the instances that have led to these arrest, their sheer volume, plus the fact that they are linked with a time of protesting for the fundamental rights of women, suggests strongly that Article 9 of the ICCPR i.e. ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty…’ has been grossly violated.  

Dignity of detainees

Although I am not armed with specific, disaggregated information, taking into account the fact that Mahsa was beaten as a (arbitrary) detainee of the Morality Police, further exacerbating that fact with Iran’s well documented fraught treatment of detainees and prisoners, it is highly probable that Article 10 of the ICCPR has also been violated.

Freedoms of Speech, Belief, Assembly and Associated Right to Protest

The above are a ‘bucket’ of inter-dependent rights, as discussed in detail in earlier reviews. The mass suppression of the #Mahsa/#WomanLifeFreedom protests, as described by the UNHRA, is a continuing violation of Articles 18, 19, 21 and 22 above.

The importance of this bucket of ‘freedoms’ rights cannot be understated. I am of the strong view that the genesis of all gross human rights violations begins by not respecting these freedoms. It is the intolerance of one’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; it is the interference with one’s right to hold opinions, the right to freedom to express oneself; it is the refusal of people’s right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association with others – that leads to all other rights, including life, being violated.

The “Highlights from the recent protests” section of the First 82 days report details a number of violations against various Iranian citizens. In these, the number of international law violations are innumerable. Dealing with them individually would be the exact approach this article argues against – all those instances are proof of systematic violations, and possible remedies for such widespread, systematic violations, by state apparatus at all levels, is discussed below.


I say the streets of Iran are speaking, and they are loud. The international community must answer the voices.

‘The international community must act!’ This is a phrase I have used repeatedly in the specific legal reviews I have done. However, what does ‘acting’ look like? What forms of action are permitted in international law? Who is the international community?

As a form of solidarity and more importantly, pressure on own governments, individual citizens of the world are legitimate role players. However, the ultimate role players – owing to having powers allocated by prescribed international law – more concretely, states, in their own capacity, and as member states of the UN, along with the political organs of the UN.

Individual citizens of other countries

Although the solidarity and pressure by the peoples of the world can be useful. With the proliferation of social media, joining online campaigns through twitter and other platforms helps bring light and attention to the situation of Iran, as evidenced by the record over 300 million tweets carrying Mahsa Amini’s hashtag. It is easy and free to follow Iranian activists’ social media accounts, and to share information and posts on protests. Donating and or supporting human rights organizations makes it possible for organisations such as Human Rights Activists of Iran to be on the ground collecting information, sharing information, providing legal opinions and generally being outlets for those oppressed. Another form of solidarity is writing to one’s government or parliament asking them to support Iranian women’s rights publicly. It is this public pressure that will hold your country accountable in front of its peers, even at international bodies such the UN. Organising and/or joining local protests is also a powerful form of demonstration and applying of pressure. Mass peaceful protests have occurred in Berlin, Paris, Washington, London and other cities around the world.


The regimes violent suppression against Iranian civilians invited travel bans and sanctions on important government officials from nations like the UK, US, Canada, and Germany. Similarly, Iran has been hit with a slew of targeted sanctions by the EU.

Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA), accompanied by 161 international and regional human rights organizations and women’s rights defenders, announced their solidarity with the protesters in Iran by publishing a statement. Before that, HRA and 12 other human rights organizations issued another statement calling for the international community’s intervention to counter the oppression of women and protesters by the Iranian government. Also, HRA, with 19 human rights organizations, in a letter addressed to the President of the United States, Joe Biden, asked him to fulfill his promise to confront authoritarian and repression in Iran.

These efforts have resulted in historical sanctions against human rights perpetrators, since the start of protests more than 185 individuals and entities have been sanctioned across 4 jurisdictions. 

United Nations

More forcefully, I argue for international intervention through the properly designated international bodies. I must not be seen to be arguing for regime change, instead, I am arguing for the protection of Iranian lives and freedoms through holding Iran accountable to its obligations under international law. Mahsa’s death is tragic. Even more tragic is that it is not the first time, and neither, as history has shown, will it be the last time. As I write, Iran has already carried out four death penalties aimed at intimidating protesters. These death penalties were carried out in rushed court cases that lasted a few hours at most, which indicates that due process could not have been followed. Execution followed soon thereafter; clearly grossly unfair trials and unlawful executions.

General Assembly

The General Assembly (‘UNGA’) is the plenary body of the United Nations, with one of its responsibilities being the maintenance of international peace and security. As argued previously and supported by a Security Council resolution, peace cannot exist if human rights are not protected and advanced. Peace and human rights are inextricably linked. The UNGA is authorised to discuss and to adopt resolutions on any question relating to the maintenance of international peace and security or any questions falling within the scope of the UN Charter. Although Resolutions of the UNGA are recommendations in nature, they can have considerable political weight. Surely, resolutions pertaining to Iran need to be taken by the UNGA and supported widely as ‘important decisions’, such as action against a fellow member state, need two-thirds majority to be adopted.

Security Council

The Security Council is the executive body of the United Nations, and it has the primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. It has 5 permanent member states that have veto power, along with 10 alternating members who don’t have veto power. Importantly, the Security Council is empowered to take decisions binding on all member states of the United Nations. In my estimation, the situation in Iran is at the level that needs binding decision-making by the Security Council

Chapter VI (of the UN Charter) empowers the Security Council to address disputes that in its judgment do not threaten international peace, but that, if continued, are likely to endanger the maintenance of peace and security.

International law scholars claim an argument exist on whether the Security Council may adopt a resolution which designates a situation as a threat to peace if it only involves a serious violation of human rights within a particular territory. One side argues that it cannot as there needs to be some external element which affects a neighbouring state or has the potential of provoking armed conflict between states; while others maintain that a serious violation of human rights within a single state permits a determination of threat to peace

The former, I argue, are wrong. To claim that there is peace when thousands of people of one state are persecuted continuously, and have their human rights violated grossly, yet claim that peace has been threatened when two forces of 100 soldiers in total throws sticks and stones on each other over a border (as with India and Pakistan recently) is to be purely academic and out of touch with realities.

ECOSOC Removal of Iran from CSW

On December 14 2022, Iran was removed from the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for the reminder of its 2022-2026 term for the oppression of women and girls and the actions of Islamic Republic since September 2022. In this historic event the resolution was put to a vote by UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), where it received 29 votes in favour, 8 against, and 16 countries abstained.

Establishment of Fact-Finding Mission (FFM)

Resolution S35/1 on the deteriorating situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, adopted on 24 November 2022, an independent fact-finding Mission has been established. Mandate of this mission is stated as follows by the United Nations human Rights Council:

With the adoption of resolution S35/1 of 24 November 2022, the Human Rights Council provided the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran with the following mandate:

To thoroughly and independently investigate alleged human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran related to the protests that began on 16 September 2022, especially with respect to women and children;

To establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations.

To collect, consolidate and analyse evidence of such violations and preserve evidence, including in view of cooperation in any legal proceedings.

To engage with all relevant stakeholders, including the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, relevant United Nations entities, human rights organizations and civil society.

The Human Rights Council requested the Fact-Finding Mission to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue at its fifty-third session (June/July 2023) and to present to the Council a comprehensive report on its findings during an interactive dialogue at its fifty-fifth session (March 2024).


Taken together, the ‘highlights from the recent protests’ from the first 82 days report, plus the monthly profiles and legal reviews for Spreading Justice (HRA-SJ), are all proof of systematic persecution of Iranians.  The atrocities of Iran are systematic and entrenched. It is clear that the State of Iran is guilty of crimes against humanity!

Only a whole-scale change can assist the crying voices of Iran; and it must start right at the top. Iranians of all classes, of all religions, of all creeds have come out in a unified voice for the first time since the Iranian Revolution. 

The law of Iran, as seen in the IPC, makes it legal to carry out acts that undermine international law and human rights. The IPC itself is an instrument of gross human rights violation.

Brian Currin
December 2022

Annual Analytical and Statistical Report on Human Rights in Iran for the year 2022

Department of Statistics and Publications of Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA)— 2022, has been an eventful year in Iran, with at least 3046 protests being held across all provinces of Iran, and at least 22655 individuals arrested in violation of their right to freedom of expression. More so in an extremely alarming rate the executions carried out in 2022 compared to the previous year, increased by 88%, and the number of death sentences issued has also increased by 8%.

This annual report on human rights violations in Iran is the result of collection, analysis, and documentation of 13342 reports concerning human rights, gathered from 267 news sources during 2022. The report is divided into sections based on the categories of human rights areas of concern such as women rights, ethnic rights, religious rights, death penalty, etc. In each section charts, graphs, and illustrations in addition to analysis discusses the human rights concerns and emerging trends compared to the previous year.

This report is the result of the work of courageous human rights activists in Iran who pay a very high cost for striving to enact their humanitarian beliefs. However, for obvious reasons (i.e. existing governmental limitations, bans on the free exchange of information and government interference with the existence of human rights organizations in the country), this report by no means is free of errors and cannot solely reflect the actual status of human rights in Iran. Having said that, it should be emphasized that this report is considered one of the most accurate, comprehensive, and authentic reports on human rights conditions in Iran. It serves as an informative resource for human rights activists and organizations working on Iran who seek to better understand the challenges and opportunities that they may face.

Click on the Image Above to download the PDF version of the Full report

A Comprehensive Report of the First 82 days of Nationwide Protests in Iran

HRANA – Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old young woman, was arrested by the morality police for the crime of improper hijab. Her arrest and death in detention fueled nationwide protests in Iran. Protesters came to the streets with the central slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” in protest against the performance, laws, and structure of the regime. The following 486-page report is dedicated to the statistical review, analysis, and summary of the first eighty-two days of the ongoing protests (September 17 to December 7, 2022). In this report, in addition to the geographic analysis and the presentation of maps and charts, the identity of 481 deceased, including 68 children and teenagers, an estimated of 18,242 arrested along with the identity of 3,670 arrested citizens, 605 students and 61 journalists or activists in the field of information is compiled. In addition, the report includes a complete collection of 1988 verified video reports by date and topic. The report examines protests across 1115 documented gatherings in all 31 provinces of the country, including 160 cities and 143 universities.


Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, a young 22-year-old woman from Saqqez, Kurdistan was visiting Tehran, when she was taken into custody on Tuesday, September 13, 2022, by the Morality Police officers at the Haqqani metro station in Tehran. The reason for her arrest: not properly observing the strict Islamic dress code. Mahsa/Zhina was taken to the infamous detention center of Moral Security Police known as Vozara.
Shortly after Mahsa’s arrest, she went into a coma with level three concussion, and her partially alive body was transferred to the intensive care unit of Kasra Hospital. Given the track record of the police and Guidance Patrols in mistreating the arrestees and similar previous incidents, with the believe that Mahsa was beaten during the arrest people were outraged.
Unpersuasive explanations given by the Central Command of the Islamic Republic Police Force (FARAJA) in defense of its actions regarding the death of Mahsa, the past performance of the police force, along with widespread dissatisfaction with the existence of a body called the Moral Security Police, fueled widespread protests in Iran.
The widespread protests sparked at the time Mahsa Amini was announced dead in front of Kasra Hospital on Argentina Street in Tehran, and then quickly spread to the streets despite the intimidating presence of Iran’s security forces. The protests intensified after Mahsa’s burial in a Saqqez cemetery. To the extent that after eighty-two days of nationwide protests between September 17, 2022, to December 7, 2022, they have spread to Iran’s all 31 provinces, 160 cities, and 143 major universities.
The protests did not stay limited to Mahsa’s death, it rather, quickly targeted the Iranian government’s political and ideological foundations. These protests were violently quashed by the anti-riot police and Iran’s militia force (Basij). teargas, pellets, and live ammunition were used in the repression of protestors. This widespread crackdown has led to the death of dozens of people and the wounding of hundreds of protestors.
Despite sever communication restrictions imposed by the Islamic Republic, this report attempts to give a clearer picture of the first 82 days of the protests between September 17, to December 7, 2022. It’s worth mentioning at the time of this report the protests are still ongoing in various forms.

For further inquiries please contact Skylar Thompson, Senior Advocacy Coordinator Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) at [email protected]

HRAs Spreading Justice urges governments to deny active members of Student Basij entry visas abroad. 

The Spreading Justice initiative (SJ) of Human Rights Activists (HRA) has received ample evidence and information on the involvement of University Student Basij Forces in the crackdown of protesters during the ongoing protests in Iran, especially at the universities. These involvements include physical confrontation with protesting students, gathering protesting student information and providing them to security forces, and doing so aiding the arrests of students. 

However Student Basij members, despite their vital role in the crackdowns are left under the radar and often do not pay any cost for their involvement with the suppression of student movements. Many of the Student Basij members travel, study, or immigrate abroad with full impunity. 

The Student Basij was formed by the direct order of the founder of Islamic Republic, Khomeini, on 23 November 1988. This institution was formed in universities with the aim of “the defense of Islam, the revolution, and the values of the ruling system, to link the Hawza and the university”, “explaining, promoting, and realizing the orders of the former and current supreme leaders of Islamic Republic, namely Ruhollah Khomeini and Seyed Ali Khamenei”, and “Identifying and training of loyal, committed, and aligned forces with the characteristics of the Islamic Revolution for the perpetuation of the Islamic Revolution”. Ever since, Student Basij has had offices in universities across the country where students have been voluntarily recruited.

Student Basij is organizationally affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Ground Forces (NEZSA). The commander of the national student Basij is appointed by the IRGC commander, and the provincial commanders of Student Basij are appointed by the provincial IRGC commanders. 

The Student Basij have a history of involvement in the suppression of student movements in the universities at least since 1999, and their role in crackdowns on university movements and activists has increased ever since. The Student Basij has a history of violent confrontations, spying on students, and paving the way for the entry of intelligence-security forces to repress student movements. 

Student Basij members receive ideological training and are highly loyal to the supreme leader, Khamenei. Often, their role within the system does not end with their studies. Due to their loyalty and training, they are of great value for the government and often they move on to assume governmental and security positions within the system following their studies. 

We believe that Student Basij and its affiliations should not enjoy international impunity for three main reasons. 

  1. Student Basij plays a vital role in combating democratic seeking movements of Iranian people, especially the student movement. 
  2. Student Basij members are the governments ideological reserve for assuming important roles within the system in the future 
  3. Student Basij is officially under the command of IRGC

Having said that, we realized the Student Basij members are more likely to consider immigrating or studying abroad. Therefore we have started collecting evidence and data on the active members of Student Basij, and have called on people to share any information regarding the members of this organization with Spreading Justice. 

We have compiled the collected data and information, including names of current and former active Student Basij members, especially those that are actively serving the ruling ideology and confronting student movements. We have made the decision to not share this information publicly given its complexity, rather we aim to share with universities and immigration offices globally, and further urge governments to deny active members of Student Basij entry visas. 

For media inquiries please contact HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator Skylar Thompson at [email protected]

HRA urges Tippmann Sports LLC to Condemn the Iranian government’s use of its equipment in the repression of protests

HRA urges Tippmann Sports LLC to Condemn the Iranian government’s use of its equipment in the repression of protests

ATTN: Tippmann Sports
4230 Lake Ave
Fort Wayne, IN 46815
United states

Human Rights Activists (HRA), a U.S. based non-governmental organization that monitors and reports on human rights violations inside Iran. HRA writes to inform Tippmann Sports LLC that  based on the information we have received and other existing evidence, its manufactured paintball equipment (specifically the Model 98 Paintball Gun) has been widely used by the security forces in the repression of unarmed protestors in Iran.

In the last month, the Iranian people have come to the streets to demand their human and democratic rights. In return, the security forces of the Islamic Republic have violently suppressed unarmed protestors. Hundreds have been killed, many more injured, and tens of thousands have been arbitrarily arrested. HRA has reported serious violations of human rights by the security forces of the Islamic Republic, including by FARAJA special units, against unarmed protestors. The acts documented by HRA and others include the killing, including by indiscriminate shooting, injuring, and arbitrary arrest of civilians, including minors. 

Iran is under severe economic sanctions by the United States and other democracy-supporting countries. While we are not aware, nor do we claim any malice on the part of Tippmann Sports LLC, and further, have found no evidence that supports claims that the Iranian government has obtained this weapon directly from the manufacturer, it saddens us to see that your equipment, which is designed for games and sports, has been deployed in such a fashion. 

HRA urges Tippmann Sports LLC to publicly and strongly condemn the Iranian government’s use of its equipment in the repression of protests, and with this position, stand by the people who are fighting for democracy and human rights in their country. In addition, we request that it considers implementing measures in its future contractual sales that would prevent the sale of this equipment to repressive regimes, namely the Islamic Republic. 

Keyvan Rafiee
Human Rights Activists (in Iran)

Iran Protests Weapons Analysis: Officials fail to use non-violent means before resorting to the use of force or firearms

Iran Protests Weapons Analysis

Iranian officials fail to use non-violent means before resorting to the use of force or firearms

SPREADING JUSTICE– As nationwide protests continue across Iran, Spreading Justice continues to monitor the use of violence namely lethal force against protestors. Despite the claims of authorities, there is concrete evidence pointing to the the use of excessive and lethal force against protestors.

The presence of the FARAJA force is prominent; indeed, these special units are much more visible in the current unrest than in previous instances. In addition to the FARAJA, the Imam Ali Security Battalions, affiliated with the Basij Forces, under the command of the IRGC ground forces are playing a key role in the suppression of unarmed protestors.

Spreading Justice has collected evidence which shows the use of lethal weapons by the above forces. In addition to anti-riot equipment such as tear gas, pepper spray, shockers, and batons, the repressive forces have used a variety of prohibited weapons against civilians. The report released today documents a series of reports analyzed by Spreading Justice pointing to the overwhelming conclusion that there has been an ongoing use of lethal weapons against protestors.

Paintball Guns

The paintball gun, which can be bought and sold in the market, is designed as a weapon for playing or using in sport clubs. This gun, which is mainly made of aluminum, works with various gases, including CO2 gas, compressed air, or nitrogen.

The caliber of this weapon is 0.68, it has a range of approximately 45 meters, and it can hold up to 200 bullets per load and operate semi-automatically.

Paintball guns are not considered lethal weapons in general, however their use by law enforcement against protesters specially targeting of their face and upper body is prohibited. Several reports have been submitted to Spreading Justice, showing that FARAJA units use this weapon to target the faces of protesters, which in some cases have caused injury, especially to the eye. Spreading Justice has documented the dangerous use of this weapon in various cities including Tehran, Mashhad, Rasht, Karaj and Sanandaj.


A shotgun is a type of gun that has a groove-less barrel and fires many spherical pallets at the target in each shot. This type of gun is usually used in hunting and sports and sometimes in war and for police forces. Shotguns range usually does not exceed 100 meters. Most two-barrel guns fall under this division of firearms. A shotgun cartridge usually has a cardboard or plastic casing called shotshell, and its size is expressed by a number that is sometimes called caliber in Farsi, analogously to bullet guns.

Shotguns usually exist in the form of long barreled or waist guns, but evidence found so far indicates that the only ones used in facing protesters are long-barreled types.

Shotguns have been systematically used in various cities by plain clothes or uniformed forces against protestors in recent protests, despite being prohibited and potentially its use being considered unlawful. OHCHR indicates that use of projectile weapons is unlawful under certain circumstances. The use of shotguns in recent protests against the protesters fails at least 3 of the requirements for the use of this weapon, in addition to having been used on unarmed peaceful protestors, shot guns have been used unlawfully because (1) multiple pallets were fired at the same time which means it cannot comply with the principles of necessity and proportionality. (2) in some cases, were used in a very short distance, (3) they were targeted at the face and neck of protestors.

According to the documents collected by the Spreading Justice, most of the shells used in the recent protests were 12mm pallets, which usually hold 9 bullets and can be deadly if used at less than 40 meters.

After studying the forensic documents and speaking to eyewitnesses, Spreading Justice confirms that the FARAJA forces used a shotgun was the weapon used to kill Mohammad-Javad Zahedi in the city of Sari.

Spreading Justice has talked to at least three doctors who have treated the injured in recent incidents. According to the testimony of these doctors, more than 80 patients were wounded by pallets from shotguns. It should be noted that this large number is based on the testimony of only three doctors in the cities of Tehran, Rasht and Karaj.

According to testimonies and reliable video documentation, the pallets did not only hit the lower body of the protestors, but they were found in various parts of the body including the face and torso. This shows that contrary to the statements of law enforcement officials, the forces present at the scene have used this weapon, which can be deadly, by firing indiscriminately at the protesters.

In addition to unbranded ammunition, Spreading Justice has analyzed pictures of used shotshells, which belong to the Maham company. Maham is a subsidiary of Iran’s Ministry of Defense.

Assault rifles

Based on reports received by Spreading Justice, the weapons of war used to suppress protestors were mainly one of the below:

  1. Kalashnikova
  2. Heckler & Koch G3
  3. Steyr HS .50

Spreading Justice has received information on the use of Styr HS .50, however has not been able to confirm its use and is in the process of examining and monitoring for additional evidence on the use of this weapon, therefore the details of use of this weapon is not discussed in this report and will be discussed in the future reports.

Kalashnikova (known as: Kalash or AK-47) is an assault rifle that operates with gas and is chambered for 7.62 x 39mm cartridge. The effective firing range for an AK-47 is between 300 to 400m and its maximum range is 2000m. The standard magazine capacities of this weapon are 30 or 75 rounds drum.

Another weapon that falls under this category is Heckler & Koch G3. This weapon has caliber of 7.62 and 51mm bullets. Its effective firing range is 200 to 400m and its standard magazine capacity is 30 as well as up to 100 round drum magazines.

Although these weapons are being used less than in previous instances, they were most documented in the massacre of Zahedan that came to be known as bloody Friday of Zahedan, and the use of Kalashnikova in the deadly attacks on Sanandaj.

 According to the opinion of the doctors consulted by Spreading Justice, the effects of this weapon can be seen on the bodies of some victims, including Omid Sarani and Matin Ghanbarzehi.

As mentioned, the death of about 90 Baloch protesters in the event of Black Friday in Zahedan are considered the most concrete evidence of the use of these weapons against the protesters.

Considering the extent of protests in 114 cities and 79 universities, Spreading Justice cannot consider the use of these weapons as dominant way of suppressing the protestors in recent protests.


There are many types of handguns, but according to Spreading Justice in consultation with experts, the most common type available to the FARAJA forces is the German Sig Sauer, which is known as Zoaf in Iran.

This 9mm semi-automatic weapon is armed with direct gas pressure and its barrel is air-cooled. This weapon is used in short distances and its magazine usually holds 8 bullets.

There are reports of the use of revolvers and various Glock or Beretta by the security and military forces, however Spreading Justice has not been able to independently confirm their use in the recent protests, we continue to monitor and examine evidence and will update our future reports on the use of these lethal weapons in our future reports.

By examining the available evidence, Spreading Justice can confirm that this lethal weapon has been used by FARAJA uniformed officers in at least four locations in Zahedan, Karaj, Rasht, and Tehran.

However, from Spreading Justice examination of reports and evidence it is apparent that the use of handguns has not been in a systematic manner.

Spreading Justice continues its investigation and evidence gathering related to the use of weapons to suppress protestors. Official claims that the forces at the scene were not equipped with lethal weapons is false. Spreading Justice will continue its monitoring of the deployment of lethal force against protestors by FARAJA and other forces.  

For media inquiries please contact HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator Skylar Thompson at [email protected]

Human Rights Activists and the Atlantic Council’s joint panel on Iran human rights

“A surge in Crackdowns Across Iran” Panel Discussion was held yesterday, 27 September 2022 in person at Atlantic council building in Washington DC. The panel discussion that was hosted jointly by Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) and Atlantic council was also broadcasted online through various channels.

The discussion Moderated by Holly Darges from Atlantic council’s Iran Source included diverse speakers and panelists from US Department of States, Atlantic Council, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Baha’is of the United States, and Human rights Activists in Iran (HRA).

William F. Wechsler the senior Director of Rafik Hariri Center & Middle East programs of Atlantic Council started the seminar by welcoming the guests. He also mentioned that the initial objective of the event at the early stages of planning has been “to call attention to dynamic that was happening inside Iran that was not getting as much attention and now, of course, the world is watching”, then he continues to remind us that Iran threatens neighbors in the region and in the rest of the world however “the first people that it threatens and the first victims are the people in Iran itself.” After setting the tone for the panel discussion ahead, Wechsler introduces the Keynote speaker Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Press, and public diplomacy of US Department of State, Jennifer Gavito.

“The government of Iran has denied Iranians their human rights including through severe restrictions on the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of association, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression. For decades political decent has been met with violent repression from the Iranian regime”, Das Gavito expressed concerns for the human right situation in Iran.

Das Gavito mentions the recent violent crackdown on peaceful protestors following the Mahsa Amini’s Death and the increased pressure on Iranian women by the Morality Police. Then she speaks of brave women who fight for their fundamental rights and continues to say, “The protests that we are seeing throughout Iran in spite of the government retaliation and attempts to obfuscate reality show very clearly that the Iranian people and the Islamic Republic of Iran do not see eye to eye”.

“The United States strongly supports the human rights of all Iranian women including the right to peacefully assemble and to express themselves without fear of violence” DAS Gavito then emphasizes that Iran’s human rights abuses is not limited to suppression women’s rights and peaceful assembly, rather Iran has a large number of political prisoners. She mentions the violation of rights of religious minorities by Iranian Government who have been targeted for their beliefs as well. DAS Gavito promised the people of Iran that the American government will hold the violators of human rights accountable. As an example, she pointed to the recent sanction of the moral security police and high-rank officials and said that the actions of the American government will not be limited to these cases and sanctions.

After DAS Gavito, Holly Darges, as the Moderator, gave a general explanation about the panel process and the general description of the events of the recent protests in Iran, and noted that the suppression of protests and the human rights situation in Iran is at a very critical stage. Darges then introduces all the panelists and starts the panel by Yeganeh Rezaian.

Yeganeh Rezaian, Journalist and Senior Researcher at the committee to protect Journalists (CPJ) spoke about her experience of encountering the Morality police as a woman who lived in Iran and her arrest and transfers to the same detention center where Mahsa Amini had been taken to. She continues by reminding that many women in Iran have a similar experience and are repeatedly detained for their choice of clothing. She also pointed to the courage of the new generation in Iran and said that the new generation is fundamentally different from its previous generations and does not bow down to the police and the ruling class.

Ms. Rezaian, who as a journalist has a history of being imprisoned in Iran, emphasized the importance of keeping track of arrests and the role of journalists, by saying Journalists working in international media have many restrictions on traveling to Iran, preparing documents and news reports, and that is why they usually only refer to the reports prepared by journalists inside Iran – despite the many restrictions. This is in a situation where the arrest of Iranian journalists and the pressure on them has increased dramatically in recent days, and this issue has made providing information more challenging than before.

Furthermore, she raised concern about increasing arrests of journalists even local journalists in very small towns, she claimed at least half of journalists arrested in recent days have been women and asked the international community to increase the pressure on Iran for the suppression and arrests of journalists in Iran.

Senior Advocacy Coordinator at Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA), Skylar Thompson, started her remarks by reporting on the alarming situation of women and human rights in Iran. While presenting a heat map of current protests, Thompson highlights that just in the first 10 days of protests, “protests are spanning 93 cities at least there are in 30 of 31 provinces, they are in 18 universities” she then continues by saying that these protests are not just in urban streets of Tehran, but they are spawning geographically, class, gender, and age wise.

Skylar Thompson presented statistics on the repression of protesters in recent days in Iran, stating according to HRA’s documentation received to this point the youngest person killed was a 16-year-old boy, and she added, A 10-year-old girl was also targeted in these protests. she was shot by the security forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but fortunately she survived, although she is in critical condition.

According to Thompson, the senior advocacy coordinator at HRA the situation of human rights has exacerbated during Raisi’s term. She mentioned the upward trends in executions, the return of public executions after two years, and the execution of minor offenders. She also mentioned the surge in inhumane retaliation sentences such as amputation of hands and blinding of eyes.

Mrs. Thompson further pointed to the actions that the international community is obliged to take, such as sanctioning the officials behind suppression, as well as sanctioning institutions that violate women’s rights in Iran, and said: “The fact that the American and Canadian governments have imposed sanctions on the Morality Police and some officials is a positive step, but we do not know who the Canadian government has specifically sanctioned. On the other hand, the silence of countries like England is questionable, and we still do not know the result of the decision and possible actions of the European Union.

In addition, in answer to a question raised by the audience, Mrs. Thompson addressed the difficult livelihood situation of workers and teachers in Iran. She pointed out that teachers had organized many protest rallies in recent months, which led to the arrest of more than 150 teachers’ union activists.

Senior Researcher MENA region at Article 19, Mahsa Alimardani, raised concerns regarding free flow of information due to the internet disruption and blocking of many online services in Iran during recent protests.

Alimardani, as an expert in the field of technology and communication, discussed the challenges of communication in Iran in the last eleven days and that the Islamic Republic has used new methods to limit access to the Internet. She discussed the difference between the communication restrictions in recent events and what happened in November 2019 and explained that even though this time the internet was not cut off completely like in November 2019 and some Iranians have been able to use the internet in recent days. She added that the disruptions are more strategic than before and at hours that protests usually increase after 4pm, outages and other disruptions increase.

Alimardani Also spoke about Satellite Internet (Namely Starlink) and called the lifting of U.S. sanctions in this regard a positive step. She also warned of the vast disinformation in this regard and even malwares and unsafe apps that have claimed by their downloads users in Iran can connect to Starlink.

Despite the existing challenges, Alimardani expressed hope about the possibility of using satellite internet but also warned that the excessive attention to Starlink in recent days has been a bit misleading and has caused attention to be taken away from the actions that can be taken, such as providing safe and secure VPNs for users in Iran.

Anthony Vance, director of public affairs of the Baha’is of the United States, was another speaker at the meeting who addressed the problems of the Baha’is in Iran and said that the pressure on the Baha’is of Iran has increased systematically in the government of Ibrahim Raisi, especially since June. Depriving Baha’is of education, destroying their homes and spreading hatred against the Baha’i community are only a few examples of the oppression that Vance mentioned.

At the end of the joint meeting of the group of human rights activists in Iran and the Atlantic Council, the Panelists Answered questions submitted by the audience.

Watch the full Event online

From Forced Veiling to Forced Confessions

From Forced Veiling to Forced Confessions;
A spike in crackdowns against women in Iran 

In Iran the punishment for being seen in public without a headscarf and what is deemed ‘appropriate’ clothing includes arrest, a prison sentence, flogging or a fine. Such a “use of repressive legislation to criminalize the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is incompatible with Iran’s obligations under international human rights law”. Historically, women’s rights activists have been arrested and sentenced to prison for protesting against what has been termed “forced veiling” or “compulsory hijab”. 

Most recently there has been a frightening uptick in crackdowns against women in Iran and  a slew of those women’s rights activists have additionally been coerced into forced confessions televised across Iranian State media after being arrested for protesting against forced veiling; a violation of the freedom from torture, the right to fair trial and due process. 

In July, a video circulated online depicting a woman harassing activist Sepideh Rashno for what she perceived as an “improper hijab”. This is common as the public is encouraged under principles of “enjoining good and forbidding evil” to police their peers on such matters. 

Rashno was later arrested. She was held incommunicado, her whereabouts unknown, until a televised confession aired where signs of physical torture were evident. Prior to the airing of her confession, HRANA reported her transfer due to possible internal bleeding–believed to be a result of physical torture. She continues to be held without access to legal counsel. 

Of those complicit in the surge in crackdowns against women there are many. However, when it comes to the later point on violations connected to coerced forced confessions, Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour-Ahmadi stands out amongst the crowd. A high ranking individual within the IRIB, she is notorious for producing forced confessions; her voice and name as producer can be seen in Rashno’s confession which aired on 31/July/2022. The IRIB is well-known for broadcasting forced confessions and show trials, this fact has been noted by numerous governments around the globe, the United Nations, and a number of human rights organizations. IRIB is a State controlled media organization; the head of the IRIB appointed by the Supreme Leader. Previous heads have been designated under Global Human Rights Sanctions regimes for this very behavior. The current head of the IRIB, Peyman Jebeli is complicit in the violations surrounding the televised forced confession of Rashno and others and as such should be held to account.  

The right not to wear the hijab is a right protected in Articles 19 and 26 of the ICCPR to which Iran is a State party. Iran, and its law enforcement leaders, are bound by the ICCPR and as such should be held accountable. In addition related acts of coerced, televised forced confessions are violations of freedom from torture and the right to fair trial and due process. These acts should be thoroughly and separately investigated. 

A Swedish court has sentenced an Iranian Official to life in prison in a historic trial.

Hamid Noury (Abbasi), 61, was a judicial official in the early years of the inception of Islamic Republic of Iran. He was directly linked to Mass executions of 1988 in Gohardasht prison, and sentenced to life in a historic trial by a Swedish court. 

The Trial is of historic significance, as it is the first time an Islamic Republic’s official is held accountable internationally for atrocities committed locally and the violation of international law. 

Hamid Noury worked as Assistant to the deputy prosecutor in Evin Prisons in Tehran and Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison in Karaj From 1982 to 1991. At the time of  the mass executions of the summer of 1988, in which thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience were executed by the judiciary of the Islamic Republic, he was one of the effective members of the execution committee in Gohardasht prison during this massacre.

Historic Significance of the Trial for Universal Jurisdiction

Today on Thursday July 14, 2022, in a historic sentence, the final verdict was issued by Judge Tomas Zander in the Swedish court, and Hamid Noury was sentenced to life in prison for “Mass execution and Torture of political prisoners.”

Hamid Noury was arrested on November 9, 2019 during a trip to Sweden at Stockholm Airport on charges of “premeditated murder, crime against international law and war crimes” for direct role in a serious and widespread human rights violation.

Hamid Noury’s trial began in 2021, and over many sessions witnesses have testified to his role in giving death sentences and walking prisoners to their execution sites. 

Hamid Noury’s Trial is remarkable for many reasons. Most importantly, It is the first time an Iranian official is sentenced in a foreign court for violations of International Law. 

Secondly, the crimes took place about 34 years ago and there has been no site access for investigations and NGO’s Private investigations were submitted for the trial, also the trial largely depended on heart wrenching testimonies of witnesses. 

Thirdly, this was an international effort for justice, as witnesses and activists from across the world set foot forward to testify against Noury’s crimes, in multiple trials that took place over a year. In this rare international effort for justice, the court briefly relocated to Albania to accommodate witnesses that could not be present in sweden. 

This Trial is of historic significance not just for Iranians but for everyone seeking international justice, as it brings hope to possible prosecution of other perpetrators that have committed atrocious crimes years ago and who enjoy impunity locally.