U.N. urges Iran to immediately halt executions

At least 80 people executed in Iran since beginning of 2014, U.N. says.

At least 80 people executed in Iran since beginning of 2014, U.N. says.

GENEVA - The United Nations (UN) said Friday that the new Iranian government has not changed its approach to the death penalty and continues to impose capital punishment for a wide range of offences.

"We are deeply concerned about the reported spike in executions in Iran since the beginning of this year. In just over seven weeks, at least 80 people have been executed," a U.N. Human Rights spokesperson said at a press conference at the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Some reliable sources indicate the figure could be as high as 95," Ravina Shamdasani added.

The U.N. urged Iran's government to immediately halt executions and to institute a moratorium.

The majority of executions were for drug-related offences, which do not meet the threshold in international law of "most serious crimes" for which the death penalty may be applied, the U.N. noted.

"A number of individuals were also executed in secret and at least seven people have been executed in public this year," Shamdasani said.

Various U.N. rapporteurs and human rights mechanisms had previously expressed serious concerns over Iranian sentences and appealed to the government not to proceed with the executions.

An escalation in executions, including of political prisoners and individuals belonging to ethnic minority groups, was notable in the second half of 2013.

"At least 500 people are known to have been executed in 2013, including 57 in public. According to some sources, the figure may be as high as 625," Shamdasani indicated.

In coming weeks, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, are due to present their reports on Iran to the Human Rights Council's 25th session.

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