Iran's deputy ambassador to the UN, Eshagh al-Habib, on Thursday denied allegations in a recent UN report that human rights violations in Iran are on the rise [JURIST report]. Al-Habib criticized the report for being poorly sourced, non-neutral and simply untrue [Al Jazeera report]. The report cited an increase in persecutions among political activists and journalists, detention conditions for opposition leaders and their wives, the torture and mistreatment of detainees, the significant administration of the death penalty to people under 18 years of age and "exorbitant bail requirements" for human rights defenders and religious practitioners. However, UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed, the author of the report, stated that he was encouraged by Iran's willingness to cooperate with him [UN News Centre Report] and that Iran "needs to be seen in a better light." He further focused on the need to maintain dialogue with Iran's political leaders in order to improve conditions in the country. The US issued a statement on Tuesday denouncing Iran's "'intensified' campaign of abuse" [press release]: "Under international law and its own constitution, Iran has committed to protect and defend the rights of its people, but officials continue to stifle all forms of dissent, persecute religious and ethnic minorities, harass and intimidate human rights defenders, and engage in the torture of detainees."
Iran has been heavily criticized for its alleged human rights abuses. Jailed Iranian journalist Isa Saharkhiz [Iran Press profile] in July urged [letter, DOC, in Persian] Shaheed to investigate prison conditions in Iran [JURIST report]. In May, rights groups decried [JURIST report] Iran's persecution of lawyers. In January, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran [official website] claimed that Iran is on an "execution binge" [JURIST report], killing one prisoner every eight hours. In January, prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced [JURIST report] to 11 years in prison. Sotoudeh was found guilty [Guardian report] of "acting against national security" and "making propaganda against the system" for which she will serve five and one years, respectively. She was the lawyer for Arash Rahmanipour, who was arrested for his role in the post-election protests on charges of moharebeh, or being an enemy of God. Rahmanipour was executed [JURIST report] in January 2010. Also in January, Iranian chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi delivered a speech at Tehran University indicating that he would prosecute opposition leaders [JURIST report] for political unrest that took place after the country's 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive].