UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday expressed concerns about possible human rights abuses in Iran and urged the country to do more to combat discrimination against women and minorities.
While praising Tehran for strides made in fields such as education and the provision of health services, Ban used a new report on human rights in Iran to list a number of areas where progress was needed.
One of the minority groups suffering discrimination in Iran was the Baha'i community, Ban said.
Baha'is regard their faith's 19th-century founder as the latest in a line of prophets including Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad. Iran's Shi'ite religious establishment considers the faith a heretical offshoot of Islam.
Baha'is say hundreds of their followers have been jailed and executed since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Tehran denies it has detained or executed people for their religion.
The Baha'i faith originated in Iran and claims 5 million adherents worldwide, including 300,000 or more in Iran.
There have also been reports of "an increase in rights violations against women, university students, teachers, workers and other activist groups," Ban said in the report, which was issued to all 192 U.N. member states.
He also reiterated U.N. concerns about the death penalty, including the execution of juveniles.
"There were at least some cases of stoning and public execution, despite moves by the authorities to curb such practices," Ban said.
"Cases of amputation and flogging and suspicious deaths and suicides of prisoners while in custody were also reported."
The Iranian constitution prohibits torture but the country's penal code lacks a clear definition of torture as a criminal offense, Ban said in his report.
Regarding the place of women in Iranian society, the report said criminal and civil laws contained "discriminatory provisions that are in urgent need of reform." Ban also said that gender-based violence was "widespread" in Iran.
"Concerns have been expressed over an increasing crackdown in the past year on the women's rights movement," he said. One problem is that Iranian authorities sometimes link women's rights activists to "external security threats."
A spokesman for the Iran's U.N. mission did not respond to a request for comment.