- - Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The hangman is out of work in most of the West. Even in the United States, where several states are searching for more “compassionate” ways to kill, capital punishment is not as popular as it used to be.

The mullahs in Iran are as enthusiastic as ever in meting “justice” at the end of a rope. International human rights groups are raising protests, but the mullahs vow no mercy, but continued repression, ever harsher.

The Iranian state has executed 176 men and women so far this year, some of them hoist high on the end of a construction crane arm. Taking the trouble of building a gallows is too much.

The rate of hangings has increased sharply over last year, when the mullahs decreed the rope for 500 to 625 of the doomed. No one outside knows the exact number, and the grisly estimate was made in a report this month by the United Nations Commission for Human Rights.


So much for hope of a kinder and gentler Iran by Hassan Rouhani, who was elected president last June.

Death is exacted for offenses deemed undeserving of capital punishment elsewhere. Drug dealers can quickly get the noose, the fate of Afshin Darvazi last December. Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Shabani Amouri from Iran’s Zagros Mountains region were hanged for a crime called “enmity with God,” the euphemism for acts against the regime.

Farzaneh Moradi, a onetime child bride, confessed under duress to killing her husband. She tried to withdraw her confession, according to the U.N. Human Rights Council, but the court would not allow it. Case closed. She was hanged in Isfahan Prison on March 4.

Even North Korea, where brutality is the national sport, sometimes grants a quick death, with a bullet to the head rather than an agonizing end, thrashing like a fish on a hook.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a carefully worded rebuke of the government for the rising body count. “The new administration has not made any significant improvement in the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and opinion,” he said, “despite pledges made by the president during his campaign and after his swearing in.”

The mullahs insist the liberal application of the noose is doing the world a favor. The mounting execution toll is a “positive marker of Iranian achievement” and a “great service to humanity,” says Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s Judiciary Human Rights Council.

Human rights observers, who professed themselves shocked by the claim that dispatching citizens with a torturous form of execution is an “achievement,” urge Tehran to declare a hangman’s moratorium.

Iran clings to a cruel punishment of the past that many other nations have forsworn as an affront to civilization. Iran’s hard-line rulers shake their fists at foreign enemies, real and imagined, but save their worst barbarities for their own people.