The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has given a damning assessment of human rights in Iran, highlighting the “alarming rate” of executions and saying little progress has been made under president Hassan Rouhani.
In spite of his achievements on the international front, most notably reaching last year’s landmark nuclear deal, Rouhani’s promises of domestic improvements have stalled in the face of resistance from hardliners.
Ban’s 19-page report, released this week, says he remains “deeply troubled” by accounts “of executions, floggings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, unfair trials, denial of access to medical care and possible torture and ill-treatment”.
It adds: “He is also concerned about continued restrictions of public freedoms and the related persecution of civil society actors, the persistence of discrimination against women and minorities and conditions of detention.”
Rights violations in Iran are largely carried out by a hard line judiciary and an intelligence apparatus that acts independently of Rouhani’s government.
But as the public face of the country, the president still has a huge influence and critics say he has put the issue on the back burner. The government’s intelligence ministry has also handled a number of cases that have come under fire.
The UN says the rate of executions in Iran – at least 966 people were sent to the gallows last year – remains a huge source of concern. Most of the executions are related to drug offences but trials “fall short of the international fair standards”, Ban’s report finds.
Despite reforms in the penal code, Iranian courts continue to sentence juvenile offenders to death in defiance of international treaties, it adds.
This week, at least 100 MPs in Tehran put their names to a proposal to commute the death sentences of such drug smugglers to prison terms, but it is unclear how successful it will be. Iran’s judiciary chief said last week that it was not possible to abolish the death penalty for drug offenders.
The deteriorating conditions in Iranian prisons – where the use of solitary confinement is widespread and many prisoners, especially those held on political grounds or because of their beliefs, are at times denied proper medical treatment – is also criticized by the UN chief.