The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran warned Tuesday that there has been a disturbing surge in executions in Iran this year.
“At least 694 individuals were reportedly executed by hanging in the first seven months of this calendar year,” Ahmed Shaheed told reporters. “This year, the number could exceed 1,000 if present trends continue,” he added.
Shaheed says in his latest report that Iran continues to execute more individuals per capita than any other country in the world, and 2015’s implementation of the death penalty is on track to be Iran’s highest in 25 years.
The majority of executions this year were for drug-related offenses. Shaheed says in his report that Iranian officials told him during discussions in September that between 4,000 to 10,000 Iranians die annually from drug abuse and that capital punishment is a strong deterrent to would-be drug dealers.
Shaheed appealed to the Iranian authorities to place a moratorium on the use of executions for all crimes not considered “most serious” under international law.
Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council to report on specific human rights issues.
Shaheed said he is particularly concerned by reports that Iranian authorities hanged two juvenile offenders in recent weeks. “This is notwithstanding an absolute ban on the execution of juvenile offenders under international law,” he said.
His report notes that Iran has also executed at least 10 women this year.
In his report, the special rapporteur also expressed concern for the right of Iranians to free expression and opinion, as well as religious freedom for minorities.
He said international expectations that the nuclear deal signed in July between Iran and the six major powers could positively impact the human rights situation in Iran through greater engagement has so far not come about.
“The human rights situation in Iran remains dire,” Shaheed said.
He will formally present his report to the U.N. General Assembly committee dealing with human rights on Wednesday.