Hassan Rouhani
Hassan RouhaniReuters

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had failed to fulfill his campaign promises to allow greater freedom of expression, Reuters reported.

Ban also noted the sharp rise in executions since Rouhani’s election. He made the comments in a report to the UN Human Rights Council.

"The new administration has not made any significant improvement in the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and opinion, despite pledges made by the president during his campaign and after his swearing in," Ban said in the report, according to Reuters.

"Both offline and online (news) outlets continue to face restrictions including closure," he said.

Iranians expressing dissenting views or beliefs still face arrest and prosecution, he added.

Ban welcomed the release of 80 political prisoners since September, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and the reinstatement of some university students and lecturers.

At the same time, he said there was a "large number of political prisoners", including lawyers, women rights activists and journalists.

Ban highlighted the fact that Mehdi Karoubi and Mirhossein Mousavi, presidential candidates in 2009, have been under house arrest since 2011, despite never being charged with a crime.

"The Secretary-General urges the President to consider the immediate release of the two opposition leaders and to facilitate their urgent and adequate access to medical care," Ban’s report said.

Even under Rouhani, Iran's has continued to detain activists accused of providing material to “anti-government websites”.

Iran also regularly executes people who are convicted of murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, adultery and espionage.

The Islamic Republic has continued to do so even under Rouhani and, in fact,  a report by Amnesty International at the beginning of 2014 revealed that there has been a surge in executions.

In his report, Ban said that most executions in Iran were for drug offences, but political prisoners and ethnic minorities were also among those put to death.

Between 500 and 625 people were executed last year, including 57 in public, he said, echoing concerns by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

"The new government has not changed its approach regarding the application of the death penalty and seems to have followed the practice of previous administrations, which relied heavily on the death penalty to combat crime," Ban said.

Iran has not allowed any UN rights investigators to visit since 2005 despite repeated requests, Ban said.

Last December, the United Nations General Assembly condemned human rights violations in Iran, though it welcomed Rouhani’s pledged to improve in this area.

Iran rejected the resolution, claiming it was "full of untrustworthy items" and presents no evidence except reports by western sources and "terrorist groups."