"It is absolutely unacceptable for individuals to be imprisoned and condemned to death for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, opinion and expression, and affiliation to minority groups and to cultural institutions," Ahmed Shaheed, special U.N. rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said Monday in a release.
The five men, all members of the Ahwazi Arab minority and founders of the scientific and cultural institute al-Hiwar, were arrested in their homes in Ahwaz in 2011. Their convictions on charges of corruption, propaganda and "enmity against God" recently were upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court.
"Under international law, the death penalty can only be employed when very strict conditions are met, for example only in respect of the most serious crimes and only after a trial and appeal proceedings that scrupulously respect all the principles of due process," said Christof Heyns, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights area. The United Nations said the positions are honorary and the unpaid experts are U.N. employees.