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UN urges Iran to halt executions

Three senior United Nations human rights experts have appealed to Iran to halt 11 executions they say are scheduled to take place and to declare a moratorium on the death penalty.

"We urge the Iranian authorities to stop the executions of Saeed Sedeghi and 10 other individuals scheduled for Saturday 13 October," said the three.

The officials are Ahmed Shaheed, special rapporteur on Iran; Christof Heyns, an expert on extra-judicial executions; and Juan E Mendez, special rapporteur on torture.

Sedeghi was sentenced to death on June 2 for drug offences. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says he did not receive a fair trial and was subjected to torture.

The experts, appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to report on specific human rights themes, said: "In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, the sentence of death can be imposed only for the most serious crimes, which do not include drug crimes. Cases that do not meet these standards are tantamount to arbitrary executions.

"We have repeatedly urged Iran to halt executions. We regret, however, that instead of heeding our calls, the Iranian authorities have stepped up the use of the death penalty."

London-based human rights group Amnesty International says that as of Wednesday it had tallied at least 344 Iranian executions since the start of the year, including 135 that have not been formally announced. The majority of those executed were convicted of drug trafficking.

The 10th International Day against the Death Penalty was observed two days ago, and the experts said they were "appalled" that this event had been overshadowed by an increase in the number of executions in Iran.

The overall global trend on the use of the death penalty has seen the number of executions worldwide decline, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

An estimated 150 UN nations have abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium, either in law or practice.

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