U.N. Investigator Highly Critical of Iran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad / AP

A United Nations investigator said Tuesday that Iran has attempted to stifle dissent in the country by cracking down on journalists, rights activists, and lawyers, according to the New York Times.

Investigator Ahmed Shaheed conducted 169 interviews, the majority inside Iran, in compiling his report.

Iran said the claims made were "unfounded propaganda."

 He asserted that rights abuses, including what he called "serious torture," had been carried out across a wide section of society, affecting people engaged in a range of activities.

Mr. Shaheed expressed particular concern for the situation of journalists, rights activists and prominent lawyers defending politically sensitive cases or working with organizations promoting human rights who were facing long prison sentences or long bans on their ability to practice their professions. In a statement to the council, he said they "continue to be subjected to harassment, arrest, interrogation and torture, and are frequently charged with vaguely defined national security crimes, which is seemingly meant to erode the front line of human rights defense in the country."

Shaheed also expressed concern over Iran’s 497 executions in 2012, half of which were kept secret.

About 80 percent of executions were carried out for drug-related offenses that are not a capital crime under international law, Mr. Shaheed said. In his review of capital cases, he found what he called frequent reports of forced confessions, inadequate opportunities for defense and widespread disregard for legal safeguards.