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U.N. Wants Curbs on Iran Executions

December 13, 1997

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The U.N. General Assembly called on Iran on Friday to end executions for nonviolent crimes and protect the civil liberties of women and religious minorities in the Islamic republic.

The call comes despite the election in May of President Mohammed Khatami, a move widely seen in the West as an endorsement for liberalizing the strict Islamic regime that has governed Iran since the overthrow of the late Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in 1979.

In a resolution approved by a vote of 74-32 with 56 abstentions, the General Assembly expressed concern at the increasing number of executions in Iran as well as ``torture, degrading treatment or punishment.″

The resolution backed a report by U.N. special investigator Maurice Danby Copithorne, who cast doubt on claims that respect for human rights was improving in Iran.

In the October report, Copithorne, a Canadian, said executions doubled from 1995 to 1996 and could double again this year. He said 137 people had been executed between January and September but gave no figures for the other years.

Copithorne said much of his information on executions came from reports in the Iranian press. Noting the perception that Khatami would introduce more democracy to the Islamic regime, Copithorne said the pace of change so far has been ``so modest as to represent little substantive improvement.″

In the resolution, the General Assembly also called on Iran to refrain from violence against members of the opposition. And, it asked Iran to give written assurances it did not support a campaign launched by the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to assassinate author Salmon Rushdie.

Khomeini issued a religious decree in 1989 condemning the Indian-born British writer to death for blasphemy after publication of his novel ``Satanic Verses.″

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