Amnesty International says at least 173 people convicted of drugs-related offenses have been executed in Iran 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 the country, predominantly impacting "people from marginalised and economically disadvantaged backgrounds," the London-based human rights group said in a statement on June 2.
It said members of Iran's Baluch minority accounted for around 20 percent of the executions, "despite making up only five per cent 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 human rights activists now say the Islamic Republic is executing people on all charges in an attempt to instill fear into the population as Iran’s clerical rulers seek to quell a protest movement that erupted last September.
The Islamic Republic has hanged seven men in cases related to the nationwide protests, while hangings on all charges, particularly drugs-related, have surged in recent months.
The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and member states that provide funding to its projects in Iran are under increasing pressure to condemn the surge in executions.
"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," Eltahawy said.
Iran Human Rights (IHR) said on June 1 that the number of executions across the country has reached at least 307 since the beginning of the year, a 76 percent rise compared to the same period in 2022.
The Norway-based group said the Islamic Republic executed at least 142 people 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," Amnesty warned.