By NICK CUMMING-BRUCEJAN. 22, 2014
United Nations human rights experts called on Wednesday for an urgent halt to a surge in executions in Iran in recent weeks, observing that the more moderate tone adopted on human rights since President Hassan Rouhani’s election last year has yet to yield any moderation in the country’s punitive practices. Iran reportedly hanged 40 people in the first two weeks of January, 33 of them in the last week, Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations expert monitoring human rights in Iran, and Christof Heyns, the organization’s expert dealing with summary executions, said in a joint statement released in Geneva. The hangings carried out by Iran since the start of the year follow the execution of 625 people, including 28 women, and a number of political detainees in 2013, an increase of more than 100 over the number of recorded executions the previous year, Mr. Shaheed said.
Iran, engaged in a long-running and violent battle with highly organized and often heavily armed narcotics traffickers, executed prisoners mainly for drug offenses and some for crimes against national security, the experts noted. However, these offenses do not meet the threshold for the application of the death penalty set by international law, which says it should be limited only to the most serious crimes, meaning intentional killings, Mr. Heyns said. The high rate of executions in Iran, second only to China in the number of people it puts to death, is in sharp contrast to the signs of political moderation that followed Mr. Rouhani’s inauguration in August.