Iran hit by new EU, UK sanctions

This, as a UN-appointed expert says the Ayatollah regime has committed violations in recent months that may amount to crimes against humanity

By Erin Viner

“We want to make clear that nobody is above the law, which is why we will impose a sixth package of sanctions here in Brussels,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters.

The punitive measures have been imposed against Iran in response to human rights violations.

Eight individuals and one entity have been added to those designated for sanctions; bring the total to 204 individuals and 34 entities.

“In particular, the Council is sanctioning members of the judiciary responsible for handing down death sentences in unfair trials, and for the torturing of convicts,” said an EU statement.

In addition, the United Kingdom sanctioned senior officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including several deemed responsible for managing financial investments of the paramilitary force.  They include five members on the Board of Directors of the IRGC Cooperative Foundation, and two senior IRGC commanders operating in Tehran and Alborz provinces; who will see the freezing of assets and a ban on travel to Britain.

“Today we are taking action on the senior leaders within the IRGC who are responsible for funneling money into the regime’s brutal repression,” said UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

The EU, UK and the United States have in recent months issued several series of sanctions against the Islamic Republic due to its widespread and often violent crackdown on public protests.

Widespread mass anti-government demonstrations erupted after the death of a young Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, following her arrest for attire deemed insufficiently Islamic. The rebellion is considered as one of the boldest challenges since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

At least 125,000 troops serve in the army, naval and aerial divisions of the IRGC, which was set up shortly after founding of the Islamic Republic to protect the Shi’ite clerical ruling system. It actively works to crush dissent with the support of its religious volunteer Basij militia.

Recent abuses by Tehran authorities may constitute crimes against humanity, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran Javaid Rehman told the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva yesterday.

Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity do not have to be executed during times of conflict; but are generally committed by or on behalf of a de facto authority or state.

The envoy cited specific cases of murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, rape, sexual violence and persecution.

Rehman also revealed he has gathered evidence to prove Amini died “as a result of beatings by the state morality police.”

Iran’s State Coroner has insisted the 22-year old died from pre-existing medical conditions. Tehran Police Commander Hossein Rahimi claimed that Amini suddenly became ill but had suffered no physical harm and that officers had “done everything” to keep her alive. Earlier police statements said Amini had suffered a heart attack after being taken to the morality station to be “educated.”

Her relatives have denied she suffered any heart condition or any other pre-existing health problems. Amini’s father, who said bruises were evident during post-mortem examination, has openly held the police responsible for his daughter’s death.

Rehman, an independent expert, underscored that the scale and gravity of crimes committed by authorities as part of the repression following her death “points to the possible commission of international crimes, notably the crimes against humanity.”

At least 527 people were killed in the protests – including 71 children, Rehman said, including several who were beaten to death by security forces. Women and girls have been targeted with shotgun fire to their faces, breasts and genitals, he added, citing Iranian doctors.

“Children released have described sexual abuses, threats of rape, floggings, administration of electric shocks and how their heads were maintained under water, how they were suspended from their arms or from scarves wrapped around their necks,” Rehman detailed during his address.

He went on to express outrage over the execution of at least four people linked to the protests, with a total of 143 people who have been put to death since January following what he called, “grossly unfair trials.”

Iran’s Ambassador Ali Bahreini strongly refuted the Special Rapporteur’s testimony, complaining to the UNHRC that the allegations are imaginary and that his country is being singled out for criticism.

The 47-member Council is the only body made up of governments to protect human rights worldwide. Last November, it voted to appoint an independent investigation into Iran’s repression of protests which is currently being established. Evidence assembled by other investigations set up by the UNHRC has sometimes been used before international courts.