A forthcoming U.N. report, obtained by Foreign Policy in advance of its publication later this week, condemns the Iranian regime for wide-ranging human right abuses, including the secret killings of hundreds of prisoners under mysterious circumstances.
The report, compiled by Ahmed Shaheed, the new U.N. "Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran," makes for dismal reading: a compendium of violations of basic rights ranging from lack of free expression and assembly to summary executions and torture of detainees.
Iran's authoritarian rulers have abused their people for centuries; thousands died during and in the immediate aftermath of the 1979 revolution. The picture improved somewhat under the 1997-2005 presidency of Mohammad Khatami but has darkened again in recent years.
Hundreds of political activists, journalists, students, filmmakers, lawyers, environmentalists, women's advocates, members of ethnic and religious minorities, dissident clerics, and Iranians with ties to Western countries have been swept into the prisons of the Islamic Republic since the disputed 2009 presidential election. The government has freed some but replaced its stockpile with others. About 500 activists remain detained.
Those convicted of crimes -- both political and otherwise -- faced the ultimate penalty more often in Iran than any other country except China. According to the U.N. report, there have been more than 200 "officially announced" executions in 2011 and at least 146 secret ones in a prison in the eastern city of Mashhad. Last year, 300 people were secretly executed there, the report says.
Hadi Ghaemi, director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, says that those put to death in Vakilabad prison in Mashhad appear to have been charged with offenses that would not merit the death penalty elsewhere. "The Iranian government claims they are drug offenders, but they don't give the names, so there is no way to know," Ghaemi said.
Those whose executions have been announced include juveniles. More than 100 Iranians under age 18 remain on death row, despite the fact that executing minors is forbidden by international covenants that Iran has joined, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The new report was made available to FP days before Shaheed is to present the findings to the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 19. Shaheed, a former foreign minister from the Maldives who assumed his position Aug. 1, has been rebuffed so far in his efforts to travel to Iran.