UN Human Rights Report: Execution Rate Up

Iran’s human rights situation remains “deeply concerning, and in some cases, quite alarming,” according to Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur on Iran. In his annual report, Shaheed noted that Iran executed at least 694 people between January 1 and September 15, 2015, likely putting the execution rate for the first half of this year at its highest in some 25 years. Iran reportedly executes more individuals per capita than any other country in the world.
The right of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly was also violated in many instances. At least 46 journalists and social media activists were arrested for peaceful activities as of April 2015. A small number have since been released. Shaheed said that the imprisonment of Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist, “is illegal under international law and Iran’s own laws.” The rights of women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities and others were also violated. And access to information was curtailed.
Shaheed, however, said his latest report is “marginally more optimistic than my previous reports.” In remarks to the press, he also cited more “meaningful” engagement between Iran and the United Nations on human rights. “Given the close interrelationship between peace, development and human rights, the agreement and subsequent lifting of economic sanctions can potentially have a beneficial multiplier effect on the human rights situation in the country, especially on the enjoyment of economic and social rights,” he wrote.
But Tehran dismissed the report’s findings. “Ahmed Shaheed’s reports are collection of baseless accusations, which have been gathered from a group of terrorism-related references,” said Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, on October 28.
The following are excerpts from Shaheed's statement and the U.N. report. 

"On the ground, we see signals of the Rouhani administration’s ambitions to advance gender equality and to improve certain rights for ethnic minorities. But these efforts have not yet translated into the changes necessary to assuage the concern communicated by this body and the Human Rights Council since 2011.
Indeed, the right to life, perhaps the most fundamental human right, is under unprecedented assault in Iran today. Of particular alarm is the surge in executions this past year, despite repeated calls on the Government by the United Nations and the international community to implement a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and re-examine its use.
Iran continues to execute more individuals per capita than any other country in the world. Executions have been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 and peaked in 2014 at a shocking 753 executions. This spate reportedly accelerated at a further staggering rate during the first seven months of this year. Human rights organizations report that well over 800 executions have taken place this year, putting Iran on track to exceed 1,000 executions by the end of the year. The majority of these executions are for non-violent drug crimes which clearly do not constitute “most serious crimes” under international law and are, there-fore, not capital offenses. The international community also bore witness to two juvenile executions this month, and there are dozens more awaiting a similar fate on death row, notwithstanding the prohibition on the execution of child offenders under international law.
The troubling state of human rights in Iran today is due, in large part, to a deeply flawed justice system that systematically obstructs the rights of defendants to fair trials and is in serious need of reform. I continue to receive frequent and alarming reports about the use of prolonged solitary and incommunicado confinement, torture and ill-treatment, lack of access to lawyers, and the use of confessions solicited un-der torture as evidence in trials." 
From the Report
The Special Rapporteur re-examined the 291 recommendations offered by Member States to the Islamic Republic of Iran during the second cycle of its universal periodic review in October 2014, along with the 130 recommendations accepted by the Government at the outcome of that review in March 2015 (see table). Individual recommendations frequently touched on multiple civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights, and either encouraged the Government to strengthen protections for these rights and/or to cease practices that violate them. The issue of women’s full and equal enjoyment of these rights was raised in 57 recommendations forwarded by delegations from five regional groups and constituted the most frequently raised issue of concern during the review.
Overview of issues raised and recommendations, by human rights issue
Number of times issues were raised in 291 recommendations
Percentage of
issues raised in
291 recommendations
Number of
Percentage of
Civil and political rights
Women/gender equality (including to ratify CEDAW)
Social, cultural and economic rights
Promote human rights nationally
Ratify conventions (not including
Religious minorities
Rights of the child
Rights of the disabled
Ethnic minority rights
Rights of the elderly
Civil and political rights
The Islamic Republic of Iran continues, however, to execute more individuals per capita than any other country in the world. Executions have been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 and peaked in 2014, at a shocking 753 executions. This spate reportedly accelerated at a further staggering rate during the first seven months of this year. At least 694 individuals were reportedly executed by hanging as at 15 September 2015, including at least 10 women and one juvenile. At least 33 executions reportedly took place in public. 5 As shown in figure II, at least 694 executions took place from 1 January to 15 September 2015, likely putting the execution rate during the first half of 2015 at its highest in some 25 years.
Right of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly
Several laws and practices continue to undermine the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Individuals continue to relay reports detailing arbitrary detention for the legitimate exercise for these rights. At least 46 journalists and social media activists were reportedly either in detention or sentenced for their peaceful activities as at April 2015. A small number of these journalists have since been released.
Journalists, writers, social media activists and human rights defenders continued to be interrogated and arrested by government agencies — including by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and cyber-policing units — during the first half of 2015. The judiciary also reportedly continues to impose heavy prison sentences on individuals that peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression for crimes such as “propaganda against the State”, “insulting” political or religious figures, and harming “national security”.
Women’s Rights
The Islamic Republic of Iran fully or partially accepted 37 of the 57 recommendations related to women’s rights at the outcome of its 2014 universal periodic review. The recommendations that urged the Government to reconsider the provisions in the Islamic Penal Code that discriminate against women, and to criminalize domestic violence, including marital rape, were rejected.
Gender-based discrimination in matters of civil, political, social and economic rights continue to overshadow the remarkable advances the Islamic Republic of Iran has achieved in women’s education and health. The country also remains in the bottom fifth percentile of 142 countries in overall equality for women.
Ethnic minorities
In its review of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2013 (E/C.12/IRN/CO/2), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about severe restrictions on education in the mother tongue languages of ethnic minorities. The Committee also expressed concern that ethnic minorities “do not fully enjoy their right to take part in cultural life, including as a consequence of closures of publications and newspapers in minority languages” (ibid., para. 30). In its comments on the present report, the Government maintained “there are no restrictions or obstacles” allowing ethnic minorities to teach in their mother language.
In March 2015, more than 1,800 ethnic Azerbaijani students reportedly signed a petition calling upon President Rouhani to enforce constitutional articles that promulgate guarantees against discrimination. Security officers allegedly arrested Atabak Sepehri, a member of the campaign, for collecting the signatures, and university officials reportedly confiscated the petitions. The signatories of the letter called for cooperation among various branches of government and relevant organizations to develop initiatives for the realization of ethnic rights. In its comments on the present report, the Government maintained that the authorities had arrested Mr. Sepehri because he “committed propaganda to incite extremist hatred”, but that he was later released and the charges were dropped.
Religious Minorities
The Iranian Constitution officially recognizes Islamic schools of jurisprudence other than Shi’ism, and recognizes Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity as minority religions. Under the law, adherents of these religions are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, to conduct personal affairs and address religious education, in accordance with the tenets of their faith. However, reports indicate that members of these faiths, including Christian minorities from Muslim backgrounds in particular, continue to face severe restrictions. Adherents of unrecognized religions, such as the Baha’i faith, face severe restrictions and discrimination and are reportedly prosecuted for peacefully manifesting their religious beliefs.
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