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Iran intensifies rate of ‘rubber-stamp’ executions

February 3, 2011
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The Vancouver Sun, 2 Feb 2011: With international eyes locked on Egypt, Iran has dramatically stepped up the number of executions of dissidents and others — hanging 67 so far this year.

The “rubber-stamp” killings — as the Iranian opposition has called them — amount to more than a third of the 179 reported executions in the Islamic Republic in 2010.

If the executions continue at the current rate, Iran will comfortably consolidate its position as being second only to China for putting people to death.

United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay admitted Wednesday that the world body’s multiple appeals over the years for Iran to halt executions have been ineffective.

“I am very dismayed that instead of heeding our calls, the Iranian authorities appear to have stepped up the use of the death penalty,” Pillay said in Geneva, seat of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Declaring “dissent is not a crime,” Pillay also expressed alarm at the large number of political prisoners, drug offenders and even juveniles who are reported to be under sentence of death.

“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 said.

Pillay has often been reserved in her criticism of countries such as Iran, Sudan and China, preferring to work through “quiet” diplomacy. Diplomats say her latest statements show a heightened degree of concern about what is happening in Iran.

Iranian opposition leaders say the hangings constitute state intimidation of the population after Iran brutally cracked down of street protests last summer following what was widely regarded as a sham re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Regardless of the legality of the accusations, every human being is entitled to his rights during any judicial procedure,” Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi said in a statement Monday, reported by the reformist news website Tagheer.

“Will the execution of nearly 300 people in the past year alone achieve anything other than intimidating the nation and further isolating Iran on the international stage?” the two unsuccessful presidential candidates added — citing a figure for the number of executions that is far higher than the officially number.

The pair released the statement after meeting with Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat-Zanjan, an influential cleric who supported Mousavi’s presidential candidacy and has questioned the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s re-election.

The UN condemnation of Iran comes as Canada continues to speak out about the fate of Saeed Malekpour, a 35-year-old Iranian-born resident of Richmond Hill, Ont. The married engineer and computer contractor, who was detained in Iran in October 2008 while visiting a critically ill relative, has been sentenced to death on charges he operated a pornographic website.

Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon signalled Wednesday that it was “unacceptable” Malekpour should face such a fate, noting Canada has frequently described the judicial process that convicted him as “highly questionable.”

But Canadian officials have also said that diplomatic options are limited because Malekpour, as an immigrant with permanent resident status, is not yet a Canadian citizen.

The Netherlands recently froze diplomatic relations with Iran after the authorities executed a dual Dutch-Iranian citizen.

Canada annually takes the lead in the United Nations General Assembly in pushing through updated versions of a resolution highlighting human rights abuses in Iran.

Included in the most recent resolution are new expressions of concern over the fate of seven members of the Baha’i faith, one of whom is the father of an Ottawa resident.

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