By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Human rights violations in Iran appear to be increasing, with political activists, journalists and others often facing persecution, a U.N. rights investigator said in a report released on Monday.

The U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed of the Maldives, said in a report to the U.N. General Assembly that the Iranian government had not allowed him to visit Iran while making his assessment.

Shaheed has "catalogued an increasing trend of alleged violations of the fundamental rights of the people, guaranteed under international law, and stresses the need for greater transparency from the Iranian authorities," he said in the report released by the United Nations.

Among the abuses by the Iranian justice system that Shaheed has investigated are "torture, cruel, or degrading treatment of detainees, the imposition of the death penalty in the absence of proper judicial safeguards, (and) the status of women," according to the report.

Shaheed's report criticizes the detention conditions for opposition leaders. He also raises concerns about wide use of the death penalty and reports of persecution of journalists and bloggers, student activists, human rights lawyers and religious minorities, including the Baha'i community, at least 100 of whom are imprisoned in Iran, according to his report.

The 21-page document says Iran ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1975 -- four years before an Islamic revolution ushered in a clergy-led government that said it took its guidance from Islamic scriptures.

The constitution of the Islamic Republic guarantees freedom of expression, religion, assembly and association, it said.

Despite such official legal guarantees, Shaheed's report described first-hand testimony received by his office that "presents a pattern of systemic violations of the above-mentioned fundamental human rights."

Tehran, which came under renewed fire last week after the United States and Saudi Arabia accused it of plotting to assassinate the Saudi U.S. ambassador, dismisses criticism of its rights record. Tehran has rejected the U.S. and Saudi charges.

Iran's U.N. mission did not respond immediately to a request for a reaction to Shaheed's report.


Shaheed raises concerns about testimony he received alleging "physical and psychological mistreatment and torture" of detainees in Iran for the purpose of extracting confessions. Such treatment would include threats, beatings, insults and threats against detainees' family members, the report said.

Abuses faced by human rights defenders, members of civil society and religious practitioners include "exorbitant bail requirements," sometimes as high as $500,000 -- the bail for two U.S. men convicted of spying who were freed last month.

The report said defendants and their guarantors must often furnish deeds or promissory notes to guarantee the appearance of the accused in court. But those notes and deeds are often not returned to the defendants after acquittals or convictions, depriving them of control of their wages and assets.

Shaheed's report also criticized the detention conditions for, and denial of rights of, Iranian opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi and their wives, describing their situations as "deeply disturbing."

Karoubi was briefly freed from house arrest to see his family during the weekend, his website said, a move indicating that authorities might ease conditions for the elderly cleric after eight months of detention.

Karoubi, held incommunicado since February when he called on the reformist "Green movement" to rally in support of popular uprisings in the Arab world, was allowed to celebrate his 74th birthday with relatives on Friday, his son said.

Mousavi and Karoubi ran against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 and raised doubts about his re-election.

Protests swept the country after the disputed 2009 election but were suppressed by the authorities, who arrested and jailed many members of the opposition.

(Editing by Will Dunham)