LONDON (Reuters) - Iran has sharply stepped up its use of public executions, hanging 13 men this year, nearly as many as in all of 2010, in an attempt to intimidate its citizens, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
Eight of the hangings have taken place since mid-April, including two juveniles convicted for a rape and murder committed when they were 17, the human rights group said.
"It is deeply disturbing that despite a moratorium on public executions ordered in 2008, the Iranian authorities are once again seeking to intimidate people by such spectacles which not only dehumanize the victim, but brutalize those who witness it," said Amnesty official Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
Iran executed at least 252 people last year, 14 in public, Amnesty said.
Human rights groups often criticize Iran, saying the Islamic republic has one of the highest execution rates in the world.
Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and apostasy -- the renouncing of Islam -- are all punishable by death under Iran's Islamic law practiced since the 1979 revolution.
Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Maria Golovnina