As the nuclear crisis with Iran deepens, the United Nations Wednesday issued a detailed new report that accuses Iran of responsibility for grave human rights abuses including the highest per capita rate of executions in the world.
The report, compiled by Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, found “a striking pattern of violations of fundamental human rights guaranteed under international law.”
The report chides Iran for its treatment of women, gays, labor activists, journalists, ethnic minorities and protestors who demonstrated peacefully in the aftermath of disputed 2009 presidential elections.
It said that Iran executed 421 people by official count and 249 others in secret in 2011 – the highest absolute number in the world next to China and the biggest in terms of population. Many were killed because of alleged drug crimes that would not merit capital punishment elsewhere, the report said.
Iran maintains that it does not violate international law but the report found Iran wanting despite its signature on five international covenants on human rights.
It accused Iran of committing fraud in 2008 parliamentary elections as well as during the 2009 presidential vote and urged the Islamic Republic to mount “a full, impartial and independent investigation into allegations” of abuses after the 2009 elections.
“Egregious human rights violations that took place in the days and months following the 2009 presidential elections continue to emerge, demonstrating that breaches of the rule of law have not been addressed and that impunity continues to prevail,” the report said.
Although Iran maintains that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won re-election in 2009 with 63 percent of the vote, the U.N. report said the regime’s repressive activities “indicate that the authorities conspired to commit electoral fraud.”
It cited the interruption of telephone text messaging services during the vote count, the “exceptional size of the winning margin nationwide” even in the hometowns of opposition candidates, “the existence of 3million more votes than ballots distributed” and the arrest of campaign workers from the opposition candidates.
The report bemoans what it calls “chronic” violations of due process, the absence of warrants for arrest, the use of “unlawful searches and seizures” and long detention, often in solitary confinement, without detainees being told why they were being held or being given access to a lawyer. It also details allegations of torture, including “electric shock, severe beatings, threats of rape and threats to detain and/or harm friends, associates and family members,” as well as severe overcrowding and unhygienic prison conditions.
Journalists have also been singled out for punishment.
The report said Iran had detained more journalists than any country in the world with 42 currently in prison. It said that 150 reporters had fled the country since 2009 and about 50 publications had been shut by the government since the presidential vote.
Hadi Ghaemi, director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, an advocacy group, estimates that Iranian jails hold at least 500 political prisoners. He also called attention to the “skyrocketing” figures for capital punishment, noting that in 2003, when Mohammad Khatami was president, Iran executed fewer than 100 individuals.
Under intense internal pressure, Iran has said it will stop the practice of stoning people to death, something the new report welcomed.
Shaheed, a former foreign minister from the Maldives who assumed his position last August, has not been able to travel to Iran. He wrote that he had “fulfilled his mandate to the best of his ability on the basis of voluminous information collected from a variety of independent and reliable sources” and maintained “his independence, impartiality and objectivity in weighing the information provided to him.”
Barbara Slavin is Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, specializing on Iran.