The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran says "positive overtures" by the Iranian government do not "fully" address international human rights concerns.
In his new report issued on March 14, Ahmed Shaheed highlighted a rise in executions, pressure on minorities, and the lack of independence of Iran's judiciary.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva the day the report was released, Shaheed said the situation of human rights in Iran remains concerning.
"Despite overtures and announcements emanating from the newly-elected Iranian government, and perhaps even in spite of modest attempts to take steps towards reform, the situation of human rights in Iran remains of serious concern," he said. "Hundreds of political prisoners continue to languish in detention, often for nothing more than the alleged crime of expressing an opinion or belief."
The report said 687 people were executed last year, an increase of 165 from the previous year.
In the document, Shaheed noted that since the coming to power of Iran's President Rohani last summer, some 80 political prisoners have been released and a new charter for citizens' rights has been proposed.
Yet, he writes that the country is still holding some 900 political prisoners, including 307 members of religious minorities, 92 human rights defenders, and 39 journalists and bloggers.
Rohani has spoken against censorship and promised to give Iranians more rights. Shaheed said the Iranian president has taken only "baby steps" while adding that the challenges remain "very major."
In his report, Shaheed wrote that Rohani's proposed charter fails to address laws and policies that discriminate against religious minorities, including the Baha'i. He added that the charter also doesn't sufficiently address discrimination against women and it fails to ban the execution of juveniles.
Shaheed said Iran needs to address laws and practices that "infringe upon the rights to life, to the freedom of expression, association, assembly, belief and religion, to education, and to non-discrimination."
For his report, Shaheed interviewed more than 100 rights defenders, lawyers, and members of ethnic and religious minorities inside and outside of Iran.
Despite the long list of human rights abuses, Shaheed said there is still some room for guarded optimism.
"Bleak as this picture may be I do not wish to imply that hope is lost," he said. "On the contrary, despite a seeming lack of shift in policy, we are beginning to observe a more dynamic internal political discussion in Iran than we have seen for many years."
Shaheed is due to present his report to the UN's Human Rights Council on March 17.
Iranian authorities have refused to allow Shaheed to travel to Iran. Officials have accused Shaheed of preparing biased reports against the Islamic republic.
With reporting by Reuters