Authorities said at least 20 people were sentenced to flogging and fines 'and the sentences were carried out'

At least 20 people have been flogged in an Iranian town after being caught eating or drinking in public during fasting hours since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, state-affiliated media reported.

The Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor in Qazvin , capital of Qazvin Province, said authorities had recorded at least 90 cases of people caught eating in public.

"Ninety dossiers have been created for people who were eating in public in Ramadan and, from these people, 20 cases were seen to on the day of their arrests", Ismail Sadeghi Niaraki was quoted by news agency Tasnim as saying.

"The culprits were sentenced to flogging and fines, and the sentences were carried out," he continued.

Although Niaraki did not specify how many lashes were given to those who were sentenced, it is believed they could have been subjected to as many as 74. Article 638 of the country's penal code says: "Anyone who explicitly violates any religious taboo in public beside being punished for the act should also be imprisoned from ten days to two months, or should be flogged (74 lashes). Note – women who appear in public without a proper hijab should be imprisoned from ten days to two months or pay a fine of 50,000 [£1.21] to 500,000 Ryal [£12.10]."

Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) has condemned the flogging, which it said amounts to torture and a violation of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says "no-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, IHR founder, is calling on the international community to condemn what he says is a "primitive way of running judiciary to show who is in power".

"This is a symbol of a system [in place] in countries where religion is not a personal choice, but something that is imposed by authorities," he told IBTimes UK.

Although Iran is not a signatory of the Convention against Torture, it has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Part III of the Convention is dedicated to articles that guarantee the respect of human rights, including the one against torture.

"Iran is breaching international laws," Moghaddam continued. "When Isis [terror group] arrived, people start[ed] closing their eyes in other countries. This is a big mistake. Human rights, in the long run, arethe only way to achieve sustainable peace," he concluded.

This is not the first time the Islamic Republic has been accused of carrying out sentences that amount to torture.

In January, rights group Amnesty International said authorities persisted in carrying out "inhumane" punishments including floggings, amputations and forced blinding, accusing the country of "legalising brutality".

The Iranian embassy in London has not responded to a request for comments.