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UN: Iran Executions Hit Alarming Rate  10/26 06:13


   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Iran executed over 250 people, including at least 
four child offenders, in 2020 and so far this year has carried out 230 
executions that included nine women and one child who was executed in secret, 
the U.N. independent investigator on human rights in Iran said Monday.

   Javaid Rehman told the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee that 
Iran continues to implement the death penalty "at an alarming rate" and said 
"the absence of official statistics and lack of transparency around executions 
means that this practice escapes scrutiny resulting in serious abuses 
preventing accountability."

   According to Amnesty International, Iran was the top executioner in the 
Middle East last year, accounting for more than half the region's 493 
executions, followed by Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Amnesty's annual figures 
exclude China, where executions believed to number in the thousands are 
classified as a state secret, and omit executions from some countries marred by 
conflict like Syria.

   Rehman said his latest report highlights serious concerns over the grounds 
Iran uses for imposing the death penalty, such as "vague national security 
charges." Iran also has "deeply flawed judicial processes, where even the most 
basic safeguards are absent," he said.

   "These elements, and the heavy reliance by courts on forced confessions 
extracted under torture and other fair trial violations lead me to conclude 
that the imposition of the death penalty in the Islamic Republic of Iran 
constitutes arbitrary deprivation of life," Rehman said.

   Rehman, a Pakistani-born professor of human rights and Islamic law at Brunel 
University in London, called it "imperative" for Iran to undertake criminal law 
and justice reforms, starting "most urgently" with a moratorium on the death 
penalty for child offenders.

   He said that beyond executions, the overall human rights situation in Iran 
"remains grim."

   He pointed to "persistent impunity for serious violations of human rights 
law," including those committed by people in powerful positions and "at the 
highest level of public office."

   "The presidential elections in June this year clearly highlight this point," 
Rehman said. He didn't elaborate but Iran's new hard-line president, Ebrahim 
Raisi, led Iran's judiciary in recent years and as a prosecutor early in his 
career Raisi served on a so-called "death panel" deciding who would live or be 
executed in a purge that activists say resulted in the killing of as 5,000 
people in 1988.

   Rehman said other factors contributing to impunity include "the alarming 
level of intimidation or persecution of those who call for accountability," 
citing the high number of acts of reprisals against families of victims, human 
rights defenders, lawyers and journalists who seek justice. There also has been 
"a heightened targeting of minority groups and advocates of minority rights," 
he said.

   "The use of lethal force against peaceful protesters continues to be 
characteristic of the authorities' approach to the exercise of the right to 
peaceful assembly," he told the committee.

   Rehman pointed to the lethal use of live ammunition against unarmed people 
demonstrating against the lack of water in the western province of Khuzestan in 
July, when at least nine people including a minor were killed and a large 
number of other protesters were injured.

   He said the widespread use of torture against detainees in many cases 
amounts to "arbitrary deprivation of life."

   Rehman singled out two cases: Amirhossein Hatami, a Kurdish prisoner who 
died after reportedly being beaten with batons to his head by prison officials, 
and the unclear circumstances of the death in September of Shahin Naseri, a 
prisoner who provided witness testimony about the torture endured by Navid 
Afkari, who was executed last year after participating in protests.

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