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Executions in Iran hit 12-year high, UN reports

Iran executed more people last year than it had in the previous 12 years, the United Nations’ special envoy on Iranian human rights reported Thursday.

Ahmed Shaheed said Iran carried out at least 753 execution in 2014, up from 687 in 2013 and 580 in 2012. Nearly half of the executions were for drug-related crimes, he said, and he questioned whether they would meet the internationally accepted norm for death penalty cases of “most serious crimes.”

He urged Iran to nullify death sentences against political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, ban juvenile executions, and “enforce a complete moratorium” on the death penalty.

Shaheed’s comments on the death sentences came in a harshly critical report that rebuked Iran for a variety of abuses, including torture and persecution of religious minorities. The report will be formally presented to the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday.

Thirty-six human rights groups, including Amnesty International, urged the U.N. to continue its monitoring. “The situation in Iran remains one of systemic human rights violations that are deeply rooted in laws, policies and practices that require the sustained attention of the council,” they said.

Shaheed, 50, a former Maldivian foreign minister and career diplomat, also voiced his concerns over reports “of insufficient or non-existent access to medical services for detainees,” and he warned “some were at risk of dying” because of poor medical attention.

The report also accused Iran of targeting journalists and bloggers, saying at least 13 have been arrested since July on a range of charges, including “national security crimes,” “propaganda against the system,” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.”

The report charges that Iranian authorities continue to shut down publications and television stations that are “deemed subversive to certain elements of the political establishment” and are blocking and filtering websites.

The report also documented widespread restrictions and persecution of religious minorities. It said that in the last four months of the year, security forces in Isfahan, Tehran, Shiraz, Hamedan, Karaj and Semnan arrested at least 24 followers of the Bahai faith, bring to 100 the number of Bahaiis in detention. More than 92 Christians are detained for religious activities, the report said.

Sunni Muslims, the report charged, have not been allowed to build a new mosque in Tehran since 1979, when the Shiite-led government took power.

In its response to the U.N. report, Iran said it “rejected the majority of the allegations.”

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