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Steep rise in executions in Iran

21 March 2014

UN/AMANDA VOISARD

"Arbitrary detentions": the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, briefs members of the press at the UN headquarters in New York, in October last year 

"Arbitrary detentions": the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, briefs members of the press at the UN headquarters in New...

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

Farzaneh Moradi, who was reportedly forced into marriage at the age of 15, was hanged this month 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 [of Iran] 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 of last week. It is reported that at least 176 persons have been hanged in Iran this year.

On Friday last week, Ahmed Shaheed, a UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, said that President Hassan Rouhani, who took office last year, had taken only "baby steps" to improve human rights in the country. Mr Shaheed's latest report on Iran, published last week, states that 687 people are thought to have been executed in 2013 - 165 more than in the previous year. This is the highest known per-capita level of executions in the world. About half of them were for alleged drug possession or trafficking.

The report is based on interviews with Iranians living in Europe, and statements from others living in Iran or Turkey. It highlights the "arbitrary detention of hundreds of individuals peacefully exercising rights", and notes that, as of January this year, there were at least 50 Christians in prison. Many were converts from a Muslim background.

The report says that "Christian religious practice is monitored and heavily regulated. For example, Muslim converts to Christianity cannot enter Armenian or Assyrian Churches, as all churchgoers must register with the government. Authorities often place cameras in churches. Christians, especially converts, are careful to use certain eu-phemistic language in communications."

In a detailed reply to the report, the Iranian government criticised the credibility of the sources, and argued that individuals guilty of serious crimes had been inappropriately identified as human-rights defenders. It argues that drug trafficking is a serious crime that warrants capital punishment.

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