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UN notes 'staggering surge' of executions in Iran

A UN special rapporteur has said at least 966 prisoners were executed in Iran last year. He also noted the high number of journalists, bloggers, activists and opposition figures in prison.

Iran has witnessed a "staggering surge in the execution" of prisoners last year, more than half for drug-related crimes, Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on

human rights in Iran,

said on Thursday as he unveiled a report in Geneva.

"A large percentage of those executions are for drug offenses and under Iran's current drug laws, possession of 30 grams of heroin or cocaine would qualify for the death penalty. So there's a number of draconian laws," he said.

Iran has repeatedly come under

criticism from rights groups

for mandating the death penalty for a host of drug crimes, including non-violent drug crimes that are not considered the "most serious" under international law.

The former foreign minister of the Maldives has been observing human rights in the Iran for the UN for five years, but the Islamic Republic has never let him enter the country.

Some practices violate Iran's own laws

Shaheed said hundreds of journalists, activists and opposition figures "languish in Iran's prisons and detention facilities."

"Fundamental problems also exist with regard to the due process and fair trial rights of the accused," Shaheed added.

He noted in the report that Iran's intelligence service and Revolutionary Guards Corps regularly violate the country's laws and violate rights.

"I continue to receive frequent and alarming reports about the use of prolonged solitary and incommunicado confinement, torture and ill-treatment, lack of access to lawyers and the use of confessions solicited under torture as evidence in trials - practices that clearly violate Iran's own laws," he said.

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Based on numbers from human rights organizations, the report said 966 executions had taken place in 2015, up from 91 executions in 2005.

The special rapporteur also voiced concern over

the execution of children

that is "strictly and unequivocally prohibited under international law."

Between 2014 and 2015 there were 16 child executions reported.

The report also cited human rights organizations' numbers pointing to indiscriminate shooting of unarmed smugglers, with between 36 and 44 border couriers killed by police in 2015.

cw/jil (AP, Reuters)

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