The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights told reporters on March 16 that the situation in Iran has worsened since President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013. Ahmed Shaheed told reporters “in my view the overall situation has worsened, as indicated by the surge in executions.” Iran quite regularly resorts to the death penalty for crimes that range from murder to expressions of sexuality that include adultery and homosexuality. Shaheed said that Iran carried out 753 death sentences in 2014, as compared to 580 in 2012. Iran executes more people per capita than any other country, including China. More than half of these are related to drug trafficking. Iran has also implemented laws that impact dissidents, rights activists and journalists.
 
Iran continues “to harass, arrest, prosecute and imprison members of civil society who express criticism of the government or who publicly deviate from officially sanctioned narratives,” Shaheed told journalists in Geneva. Shaheed said he hopes a resolution of the current negotiations with western powers over its nuclear weaponization program might improve the human rights situation, too. Shaheed said that activists in Iran are afraid that the negotiations “cast a shadow” over the human rights situation inside Iran. Shaheed said that “if there is improvement in terms of engagement on security issues, there is potential for improvement in other areas as engagement widens.”
Shaheed reported that 30 journalists were in prison as of the end of 2014 on charges that included offenses against national security, “propaganda against the system” and insulting government leaders.
 
For its part, Iran said on March 14 that the rapporteur’s report on human rights are “one-sided” and “far from realities.” Speaking for the Foreign Ministry, spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham stated that the report has been presented without observing regulations. Shaheed, she said, used “wrong, illegal, biased” approaches which are beyond the scope of his duties. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is well aware of its national and international commitments in the area of human rights and has had good and vast cooperation” with international bodies, she stated. Iran, she said, is committed to promoting civil rights.
 
Ambassador Mohsen Naziri Asl, who represents Iran to the UN in Geneva, denounced what he said is Shaheed’s “approach of ignorance.” The diplomat said that Shaheed had emphasized the “the empty half of the glass,” and ignored positive developments in the Islamic Republic. Iran has always rejected criticisms of its human rights record by the international community. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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