Noose (illustration)
Noose (illustration)Thinkstock

Iran, which is notorious for its draconian use of the death penalty and other critical human rights issues, is now open to discuss the issue, the UN rights expert said Monday, according to the AFP news agency.

But beyond a willingness to discuss UN grievances, Iran has yet to take concrete steps to improve its rights record, stressed the envoy, Ahmed Shaheed.

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

Earlier this summer, Iran launched an "execution spree", executing an average of three people per day, with nearly 700 people executed in the first half of 2015 alone, many for political crimes or on trumped-up charges, according to an Amnesty International report at the time. The Islamic Republic has claimed that 93 percent of executions in the country involve drug smuggling and has ignored UN pleas to stop the unjust executions.

Shaheed, a former foreign minister of the Maldives who is now a human rights academic in Britain, is due to present his annual report to the UN General Assembly this week. It is his first report since the historic nuclear deal with world powers that has opened up a new era of relations with Tehran.

The deal provides for the lifting of sanctions and brings to an end decades of isolation for Iran over its controversial nuclear program.

"The nuclear agreement reached this summer does present opportunities for advancing human rights," said Shaheed, a lawyer from the Maldives who has been the UN's special rapporteur on Iran since 2011, according to AFP.

The rights expert said he was "marginally more optimistic" in this year's report, compared to 2014.

"The real reason for that is that I am witnessing a greater desire on behalf of Iran to engage with me and the UN," he was quoted as having said.

In a first, Shaheed last month sat down with members of Iran's judiciary and security forces to discuss the crackdown on drugs that has in part fueled the high number of executions.

More than 800 people have been executed so far this year, and Iran is on track to reach 1,000 by the end of the year, its highest total in years.

There is no indication, however, that Iran would be willing to change course and invite Shaheed to visit. No such invitation has been extended since his appointment four years ago. In fact, an Iranian lawmaker went so far as to claim last year that Shaheed was a spy for the CIA and the Israeli Mossad.

"They are cooperating with me in a more meaningful way than before," Shaheed said Monday. "But a country visit is still not on the cards."

Shaheed continued by saying the economic boost from the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear deal "holds promise for improvement in the future" by providing more opportunity to Iranians.

"But this will require continued pressure on the country to do better," he added.