Iran executing people at ‘alarming rate,’ up by 30 percent: UN report

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Iran is carrying out executions “at an alarming rate,” putting to death at least 419 people in the first seven months of the year, the United Nations chief said in a new report. That’s a 30 percent increase from the same period in 2022.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the report to the UN General Assembly on the human rights situation in Iran that seven men were executed in relation to or for participating in nationwide protests, sparked by the September 2022 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was picked up by the morality police for her allegedly loose headscarf in violation of Iran’s dress code.

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In all seven cases, information received by the UN human rights office “consistently indicated that the judicial proceedings did not fulfil the requirements for due process and a fair trial under international human rights law,” Guterres said. “Access to adequate and timely legal representation was frequently denied, with reports of coerced confessions, which may have been obtained as a result of torture.”

He said 239 people — more than half of those executed in the seven-month period — were reportedly put to death for drug-related offenses, a 98 percent increase from the same period last year.

Guterres expressed deep concern “at the lack of transparent and independent investigations into reported human rights violations, in particular in the context of the latest nationwide protests.” He said the continued targeting of lawyers is also impeding accountability for past and ongoing violations.

The secretary-general cited information received by the UN rights agency that between September 17, 2022, and February 8, 2023, an estimated 20,000 individuals were arrested for participating in the protests.

“It is particularly concerning that most of the individuals arrested may have been children, given that the reported average age of those arrested was estimated to be 15 years, according to the deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” he said.

The government said “a minimum of” 22,000 people arrested during the protests were pardoned, but the secretary-general said it was difficult to verify the arrest and release numbers.

Guterres expressed concern that a number of individuals who were pardoned then received summonses on new charges or were rearrested, including women activists, journalists and members of minority groups. He cited reported instances of disproportionate and excessive use of force against protesters, and beatings and sexual violence after they were put in detention, as well as psychological abuse.

According to information received by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, three renowned female actors who appeared unveiled in public — Azadeh Samadi, Afsaneh Bayegan and Leila Bolukat — were convicted for not covering their hair, Guterres said. They were handed a range of sentences, “including imprisonment from 10 months to two years, attending weekly counseling sessions, carrying out hospital cleaning duties, a two-year driving prohibition and providing a ‘certificate of healthiness’ upon completion,” he said.

The report circulated Tuesday, covering the year-long period ending July 31, said “the continued denial of adequate medical care in detention remains a serious concern.”

Reports indicate that the health of German-Iranian rights activist Nahid Taghavi, 69, who is serving a sentence of seven years and six months in the notorious Evin prison after conviction on national security charges, “has significantly deteriorated in prison,” the UN chief said.

On other human rights issues, Guterres said Iranian authorities continue to use national security “to justify restrictions on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, online and offline.”

He cited a June 27 speech by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calling on the judiciary to “eliminate dissenting voices” online and tighten control over cyberspace.

Among many recommendations, the secretary-general urged Iran to immediately halt all executions, abolish the death penalty and release all people detained arbitrarily, “including women and girls, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists, for legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, association and peaceful assembly.”

He also urged the government to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, to ensure that security at protests complies with international human rights norms and standards, and to respect the rights to due process and fair trials.

With The Associated Press

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