UN rights chief dismayed by Iran executions

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UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Wednesday expressed dismay at an increase in executions since the beginning of the year, reiterating a call for a moratorium on the death penalty.

"I am very dismayed that instead of heeding our calls, the Iranian authorities appear to have stepped up the use of the death penalty," the High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Iran has hanged 67 people so far this year, according to an AFP count based on media reports. The foreign ministry says that 80 percent of those executed were drug smugglers.

Pillay's statement came as a website reported that two Iranian opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, want a halt to "unrestrained" executions which, they say, are spreading fear among Iranians and isloating the country internationally.

Pillay highlighted the executions of "political activists" such as Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aqaei who she said were arrested during protests in September 2009 and hanged last month.

"Iran is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to free expression and to free association.

"It is absolutely unacceptable for individuals to be imprisoned for association with opposition groups, let alone be executed for their political views or affiliations," Pillay added.

"Executions in public add to the already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty and can only have a dehumanizing effect on the victim and a brutalizing effect on those who witness the execution."

A large number of people are still on death row, according to Pillay.

© 2011 AFP

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