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UN warns of 'staggering' rate of executions in Iran

14 March 2014

DEMOTIX

Passionate: a woman holds a sign and gestures as she protests against attacks against Camp Ashraf, during a march to the Federal Chancellery in Berlin, on Saturday 

Passionate: a woman holds a sign and gestures as she protests against attacks against Camp Ashraf, during a march to the Federal Chan...

THE hanging of a former child bride is among what has been described as a "staggering" surge in executions in Iran, reported this week.

Farzaneh Moradi, who was reportedly forced into marriage at the age of 15, was hanged on Tuesday last week after being tried for murdering her husband. She originally confessed to the murder, but later claimed that it was carried out by a man who persuaded her to confess to the crime, on the basis that a young mother would not be executed. The court would not allow a revision to her original confession, the UN reports.

"The Government continues to execute individuals at a staggering rate, despite serious questions about fair trial standards," the UN's Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, said on Wednesday.

It is reported that at least 176 persons have been hanged in Iran this year. Most of those executed were found guilty of drug-related offences, which the UN argues is  "in violation of international legal provisions limiting the permissibility of capital punishment to the 'most serious' crimes".

Last month, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that at least 500 people were known to have been executed in 2013, including 57 in public.

The latest statement from the UN comes days after a visit to Iran by Baroness Ashton, the EU's highest level diplomat. In Brussels, Iranian exiles protested against the trip, the first visit of a senior EU leader to Iran since 2008, displaying photos of public hangings in Iran outside the EU headquarters.

Baroness Ashton was also criticised within Iran after meeting women activists on Saturday, International Women's Day. Among those she met was Narges Mohammadi, vice-president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, who was released in 2012 after being sentenced for 11 years for "gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security" and "spreading propaganda against the system".

On Tuesday, Marziyeh Afkham, spokeswoman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said that "such arrangements would not help Iran-EU ties, and will only deepen the distrust of the Iranian nation towards the West."

Human Rights Watch reports that at least 14 women are held in the women's political prisoners ward at Evin prison in Tehran. Among them are Maryam Shafipour, a student, sentenced to seven years in prison for "violating national security". In 2009, she had campaigned for the opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi.

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said that Saturday was "an occasion to shed light on the courageous women behind bars in Iran solely because they spoke out for people's rights or called for an overhaul of the country's discriminatory laws".

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