By Robert Evans
GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran executed some 670 people last year, most of them for drug crimes that do not merit capital punishment under international law and more than 20 for offences against Islam, a United Nations investigator said on Monday.
The investigator, former Maldives foreign minister Ahmed Shaheed, also reported what he said were a wide range of violations by Iran of U.N. human rights accords, from abuse of minorities to persecution of homosexuals and labor unions.
Shaheed was delivering his first report to the U.N.'s 47-nation Human Rights Council on the rights situation in the country since being appointed last year. It was dismissed by Iran as a "compilation of baseless allegations".
"It is with great concern that I report the significant increase in the rate of executions in Iran from 200 in mid-September 2011 to over 600 executions by the end of the year," Shaheed told the council.
Figures in his detailed report showed that by December 31, 421 executions had been officially announced and 249 secret ones had been reported to him by sources inside and outside the country.
His office and mandate were established last year by a narrow vote in the council when Western and Latin American countries, with some African support, joined to create a special investigation on Iran. Cuba, Russia, China and others opposed the resolution.
Iran has refused to allow him into the country. In the council on Monday it described him as "incompetent".
Shaheed, a long-time diplomat and founder of a human rights institute in the Maldives, said he had received videotaped testimony from witnesses to torture by security police and from relatives of young people who had been held in jail.
He told a news conference that even among those officially executed for drug offences there were strong indications that many had originally been arrested for resisting the regime or similar offences and had the narcotics charges added later.
A table in his report showed execution, a sentence that can also be handed down in Iran for homosexual relationships, had soared steadily to near 700 from just under 100 in 2003. In 2010, it was around 550.
Shaheed told journalists he hoped the council would vote to extend his mandate, originally created for one year, next week at the end of its current month-long session. Diplomats say the outcome of a vote is likely to be close.
"One of the most important aspects of this mandate is its capacity to give voice to those that believe themselves to be silenced by fear and lack of recourse," he said.
(Reported by Robert Evans; editing by Andrew Roche)