Iran is executing people in record-breaking numbers not seen for more than 15 years in the Islamic nation, with nearly 200 individuals having been executed in the first few months of this year alone, according to human rights activists.
The situation is so dire that activists have petitioned the United Nations Human Rights Council to take action about what they described as a massive uptick in the number of individuals killed by the Iranian government.
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More than 600 of these executions, many of them carried up publicly, have taken place under the tenure of current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who promised the world that he would act as a force for moderation.
At least 895 political prisoners are currently incarcerated in Iran for exercising free speech and other basic rights, according to the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran.
Another 687 Iranians were executed in 2013, many without fair trials, according to a revised counting of the number of executions last year. Thirty of those killed were woman, while at least three were juveniles, according to the group Iran Human Rights (IHR), which recently released in annual report on the death penalty in Iran.
The rate of executions now stands at its highest mark in the last 15 years, with current executions rates showing that the upward trend is set to continue in 2014, the report concludes.
As the human rights situation in Iran grows grimmer, the Western world has been hesitant to address these problems in multilateral talks aimed at ending Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.
"It is a paradox that the relations between Iran and the international community are improving while the number of the executions in Iran increases," Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, IHR’s spokesman, said in a statement on the report.
"The election of Mr. Hassan Rouhani has not improved the situation," he said. "Improvement of diplomatic relations should be conditioned into concrete steps from the Iranian authorities to comply with the international obligations regarding the use of the death penalty."
The issue of human rights and Iran’s abuse of the death penalty should be placed "at the top of the agenda in the dialogue between the international community and the Iranian authorities," Amiry-Moghaddam said.
Charts released by IHR show that the number of executions spiked in the second half of 2013, following the election of Rouhani and the start of nuclear talks with the West. Nearly 70 percent of all executions in 2013 took place under Rouhani’s watch.
"The elections of Mr. Hassan Rouhani as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran on June 14, 2013, led some human rights defenders and the international community to feel optimistic," the report states.
"However, more than eight months after the presidential elections and seven months after Mr. Hassan Rouhani took office, the situation deteriorated in regards to the use of death penalty," according to the report. "This report shows that the number of executions in the six months after his election is twice as high as the number in the corresponding period before the election."
In addition to the three juveniles who were killed for minor offenses, many more remain on death row, according to the report.
Human rights groups are calling on the U.N.’s Human Rights Council (HRC) to take concrete action on the issue.
Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N.’s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, is set to present to the 47-member HRC a copy of his own report on the growing execution rate.
Shaheed also has warned that the international community is ignoring the issue of human rights in Iran during the talks over the nuclear issue.
Iranian officials have dismissed concerns over its execution rate, claiming that the world should be appreciative of its efforts, which constitute a "great service to humanity."