Iran has intensified crackdown, executions: U.N.

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 10:35 AM
Iran has intensified crackdown, executions: U.N.

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran has intensified its crackdown on opponents as well as executions of drug traffickers, political prisoners and juvenile criminals, the United Nations said on Monday.

In a report, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also voiced concern at floggings, amputations and the continued sentencing of men and women to death by stoning for alleged adultery.

Journalists, bloggers and lawyers have been arrested or had their work impeded, and allegations of torture and unfair trials are rife, he said in a report to the Human Rights Council.

"The secretary-general has been deeply troubled by reports of increased executions, amputations, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials and possible torture and ill-treatment of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and opposition activists," the U.N. report said.

Ban called on Tehran to allow U.N. human rights investigators to go to Iran to assess the situation. No visit had taken place since 2005 despite repeated requests, he said.

His 18-page report was likely to add to pressure on the U.N. Human Rights Council to scrutinise Iran for alleged violations. The 47-member Geneva forum is to debate the report on March 23.

The United States is lobbying at the council for a resolution that would censure Iran for its crackdown and establish the first U.N. human rights investigator for the Islamic Republic in a decade.

A Swedish resolution, backed by Washington, is expected to be voted on March 24 or March 25.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for the creation of the independent post in a speech to the council two weeks, days after Washington slapped new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear activities.

Prominent rights activists in Iran have been charged with national security offences and given disproportionately heavy sentences and travel bans, the U.N. report said.

"A worrying trend is the increased number of cases in which political prisoners are accused of Mohareb (enmity against God) offences which carry the death penalty," it said.

"Despite a moratorium on stoning declared by the head of the judiciary in 2002, the judiciary continues to sentence both men and women to execution by stoning," the report said. Authorities had indicated parliament was reviewing the punishment, it added.

A court sentenced Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to be stoned for adultery but it was suspended last year after an international outcry. However, she had still could be hanged as an accomplice in her husband's murder. She was arrested in 2006.

Ban said he had raised the issue of constraints on human rights activists and the use of the death penalty with Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights, during talks in New York last November.

Larijani, at a judicial debate in December, argued stoning should not be classified as a method of execution but rather a method of punishment which is actually more "lenient" because half of the people survive, the U.N. quoted him as saying.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)