The Islamic Republic of Iran has been executing prisoners at a rate of up to three per-day in 2015, embarking on a killing-spree denounced by rights group Amnesty International as "staggering."
A new report by Amnesty documents how the theocratic regime has put to death nearly 700 people over the past six months alone. 694 people were executed between January 1 and July 15 according to the report – just a day after Iran signed a deal with world powers to lift sanctions over its elicit nuclear program.
That figure is nearly three times the official number given by Iranian authorities.
743 were executed in all of 2014, which means that at the current rate of executions Iran will likely top that number by mid-August.
Amnesty said the figure was particularly disturbing given the fact that the courts imposing the death penalty are "completely lacking in independence and impartiality."
The majority of those executed so far in 2015 have been for drug offenses – with trafficking even relatively small amounts of narcotics a crime punishable by death.
But Iran has a long record of using trumped-up charges of "drugs offenses" to execute political dissidents or rights campaigners from the country's persecuted ethnic and religious minority groups such as Kurds, Baloch, Bahai and Sunni Muslims. Many others are convicted of vague "crimes" such as "enmity against God" or "spreading corruption on earth."
"They are imposed either for vaguely worded or overly broad offences, or acts that should not be criminalised at all, let alone attract the death penalty," Amnesty said of many of the executions reported.
"Trials in Iran are deeply flawed, detainees are often denied access to lawyers, and there are inadequate procedures for appeal, pardon and commutation," it added.
"Iran’s staggering execution toll for the first half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"If Iran’s authorities maintain this horrifying execution rate we are likely to see more than 1,000 state-sanctioned deaths by the year’s end."
Apart from those whose death sentences have been carried out, Amnesty claims several thousand more are currently languishing on death row.
Earlier Thursday an Iranian opposition group claimed 10 inmates were hanged in a mass-execution at Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, west of the Iranian capital Tehran, on Wednesday.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said more than 1,800 people had been executed in Iran since President Hassan Rouhani – hailed as a "moderate" by some western leaders – took office in 2013.