U.N. condemns Iran's execution of minors, notes 'worrying trend'

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned Iran's execution of two minors last week, while voicing his concern about the rise in executions in the Islamic republic. "(Ban) is deeply saddened by the news of the execution of two juvenile offenders last week in Iran," Ban's press office said in a statement. It added that Iran has ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibit the death penalty for anyone under the age of eighteen. The statement said Ban was concerned last week's executions "reflect a worrying trend in Iran." "Over 700 executions are reported to have taken place so far this year, including at least 40 public, marking the highest total recorded in the past 12 years," it said. The U.N. said the majority of Iranian death sentences were imposed for drug-related offences - crimes that fall below the threshold of the "most serious crimes" as required by international law. It added that Ban urged Iran to call a moratorium on the death penalty and then to abolish it. Activist groups say Iran's human rights record should remain under scrutiny following a July 14 deal with world powers in which Tehran will see economically crippling sanctions against it lifted in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that despite Iran's 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist favoring more engagement with the West, there has been no significant improvement in human rights in the country. (Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by David Gregorio)