Head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani

On the occasion of Human Rights Day, the Head of Iran’s Judiciary Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani told high-ranking Judiciary officials yesterday, “The Judiciary will not take notice of irrational words and lies and will resolutely continue its work, because we believe that the highest human rights values are recognized in Islam.”

“As I’ve said before, many of the issues raised on the pretext of human rights, including opposing the death penalty, are in fact in opposition to Islam, because qisas [retribution] is clearly stipulated in the Quran,” Larijani said.

“Contrary to what some believe, in fact it is the Islamic Ulama [top experts] who have claims against the West, asking them, ‘Where have you brought your claimed human rights from, and on what foundation are you basing it?’ We ask proponents of Western human rights, based on what rationale do you determine 20 years of imprisonment for someone who has deprived several people of their right to life? And who said this rationale is is based on human rights?” Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani said.

Two weeks ago, a group of activists inside Iran formed a new campaign, “Step by Step to Stop Death Penalty,” to end executions in Iran, with emphasis on ending stoning and public executions. Prominent Iranian civil and human rights activists, such as poet Simin Behbahani and former Tehran University Chancellor Mohammad Maleki are among the supporters of the organization.

Executions have been on the rise over the past few months in Iran, leading many human rights organizations to criticize the Iranian government and demand a moratorium on executions in Iran. In an October joint press release, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center asked the Iranian authorities to impose an immediate moratorium on executions in Iran given the alarming rise in the recent use of the death penalty. In his October report to the UN General Assembly, Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed asked the Iranian government to “declare a moratorium on all executions, ban public executions including stoning and limit capital punishment to offenses considered to be serious crimes under international law.”

However, the Iranian Judiciary has continued to carry out executions unabated.

“Officially, 331 executions have been acknowledged by Iranian authorities for 2013 but reliable sources have reported at least 262 additional executions during the year. At least 367 of these executions have taken place since President Rouhani’s electoral victory in June 2013. For all of 2012, 314 executions had been officially acknowledged, but with reliable reports of at least 230 additional executions, the total for that year was believed to have been at least 544,” according to a recent report by Amnesty International.

International organizations have also criticized the Iranian Judiciary for executing political prisoners based on confessions extracted from the suspects under torture and in the absence of due process.