Iran executed nearly 700 in 2011, many in secret, many for political crimes, UN expert says

Nearly 700 people were executed in Iran last year, 249 of them in secret and most for drug crimes, according to a UN human rights rapporteur who addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today.

In an address to the 47-member UN council, Ahmed Shaheed, the former foreign minister of the Maldives and newly appointed UN special rapporteur on Iran, said many accused were executed after trials in which they were denied legal counsel and due process of law.

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“A majority of the capital punishment cases were related to drug offenses, which do not meet a level of serious crimes required by international standards,” Shaheed was quoted as saying in a statement that was e-mailed to the news media.

Reuters reported that figures accompanying Shaeed’s report showed that by Dec 31, 421 executions had been officially announced and 249 that were conducted secretly were also reported to him.

The full report can be downloaded here (PDF).

Shaheed said he welcomed the removal of stoning from Iran’s new penal code but expressed concern that the body of laws “intimates that this punishment may still be issued on the basis of a fatwa.” He also reported receiving 141 statements from Iranians, most of whom complained of the denial of their voting rights in the legislative and presidential elections of 2008 and 2009.

“Individuals also frequently reported the use of torture for the purposes of soliciting confessions,” said Shaheed.

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Iran has refused to allow Shaheed to enter the country and denounced him at the Council today as “incompetent,” according to Reuters, which said the mandate for the Iran rapporteur was created by a divided council last year against the wishes of Cuba, China, Russia and others.

The news agency said that Shaheed had told a reporters following his address that among those executed strong evidence indicated that many had originally been arrested for political offenses such as opposing the regime and that capital drug charges were later added on.

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