By Nikola Krastev, RFE/RL
UNITED NATIONS -- The UN report has accused Tehran of conducting more than 300 secret executions at a prison in the country's second-largest city without the knowledge, or presence, of the detainees' families or lawyers. The report, the first by the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, alleges that the executions took place at Vakilabad prison in the city of Mashhad in 2010.
The 21-page document details judiciary abuses, unauthorized detentions of political dissidents for prolonged periods, persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, extensive use of the death penalty even for crimes that would not warrant such hard punishment, and targeting of journalists who report critically on the Iranian government.
According to the report, more than 200 executions have taken place in Iran so far in 2011, including 83 in January alone. Shaheed highlighted "reports of multifarious and systemic deficits in the administration of justice."
He said, they included "certain practices that amount to torture, cruel or degrading treatment of detainees, the imposition of the death penalty in the absence of proper judicial safeguards, the denial of reasonable access to legal counsel and adequate medical treatment."
He said he was also concerned with "the employment of capital punishment in juvenile cases."
Ahmed Shaheed's report was officially released on October 17 but the diplomat -- who was not allowed access to Iran during his investigation -- called it an "interim" report. A final version will be presented next March, one year after Shaheed's appointment by the UN Human Rights Council.
Shaheed had less than three months to prepare his report and said his findings are based on the accounts of hundreds of witnesses inside Iran, official documents, Internet research, and other verifiable data. Despite having to rely on second-hand information, he insists his findings are accurate.
"I had a very short time frame to prepare that report and my main focus was to respond to Iran's -- the authorities' claim that they will not cooperate with me and that there was a need to cooperate with me," Shaheed told reporters on October 20.
He said the situation was worsening for journalists in Iran.
"There have been very severe sentences for bloggers, for example, and reports of Internet censorship that limits communications using the Internet. So it is a very serious area of concern," Shaheed said.
Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad
Iranian officials have dismissed Shaheed's findings as "lies" and "fabrications."
Iran's Deputy UN Ambassador Eshagh al-Habib said the report's conclusions were the result of manipulations by the United States and its European allies.
"By not reflecting faithfully the actual situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, [but] rather assembling a catalogue of poorly researched, exaggerated, and outdated allegations, the presentation of this report we believe is a very conspicuous manipulation of the United Nations human rights system and its content is absolutely unjustified, unwarranted, and unacceptable for my country," al-Habib said.
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