The London-based rights group Justice for Iran (JFI) has made a formal submission to the Council of the EU, and the U.S. and Canadian governments to impose sanctions on senior Iranian officials for the suppression of recent anti-government protests in Iran.
The fifteen individuals identified by JFI for serious human rights violations in the suppression of recent protests hold senior leadership positions in the Iranian police, the paramilitary Basij forces, the state’s prisons, and local government. They include a prosecutor general, Iran’s broadcasting chief, and three ministers – Information and Communication Technology, Intelligence, and Interior.
The protests started on 28 December 2017 in the northeastern city of Mashhad and quickly spread across the country, continuing until 7 January 2018. According to official sources, some 4,000 people were detained and at least 25 killed by the police and Basij paramilitary forces. Three detainees died in custody, with two allegedly committing suicide under suspicious circumstances.
“The international community needs to hold Iranian officials responsible for their actions when the government of Iran won’t,” said Shadi Sadr, Executive Director of Justice for Iran. She went on to say, “International sanctions against these individuals will also send a message to the people of Iran that they are not alone, and that the perpetrators of these abuses will be held accountable.”
JFI has submitted evidence against Iranian officials responsible for human rights violations inside Iran to various international bodies, including the U.S. and the Council of the EU. All have provisions to impose sanctions on officials responsible for human rights violations in foreign countries, which can involve travel bans and asset freezes.
According to Justice for Iran, authorities responded with grossly disproportionate force to alleged isolated incidents of violence. Six people were killed in Ghahdarijan (Esfahan province) when protesters surrounded a police station and a Basij compound. The district governor asserted that police fired on protesters after they launched an “armed assault.” Footage of the incident shows no evidence of the protesters being armed with weapons. The footage does contain what appear to be protesters throwing handmade petrol bombs at the police station.
Similarly, no evidence has been presented by Iranian authorities to back up claims that the deaths in custody of Sina Ghanbari and Vahid Heidari were suicide. A clip seen by an Iranian MP allegedly showing Ghanbari’s suicide reportedly shows nothing of the kind. Vahid Heidari’s family have reported that he had wounds on his scalp. At the time of this release’s publication, an independent investigation into these deaths in custody has not been conducted.
“They came out on to the streets of Iran in what was, for the most part, peaceful protests only to be met by severe repression by their own government,” said Sadr. The submission made by Justice for Iran, identifying and profiling officials responsible for human rights violations during the recent crackdown, is based on rigorous research and carefully assessed information from publicly available sources and eyewitness testimonies.
The list submitted to the Council of the EU, the US and Canadian governments includes:
1. Seyed Mahmoud Alavi, Minister of Intelligence
2. Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, Minister of Interior
3. Hossein Ashtari, Commander in Chief of Law Enforcement Forces of Islamic Republic of Iran (NAJA)
4. Hossein Rahimi, Commander of Law Enforcement Forces (NAJA), Greater Tehran
5. Mehdi Masoum Beigi, Commander of Law Enforcement Forces (NAJA) in Isfahan Province
6. Hassan Nikbakht, Commander of Law Enforcement Forces (NAJA), Falavarjan District, Isfahan Province
7. Mohammad Malekshahi, Commander of Law Enforcement Forces (NAJA), Doroud city, Lorestan Province
8. Gholamhossein Gheibparvar, Brigadier General, Commander of the Basij Forces.
9. Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Minister of Information and Communications Technology
10. Mostafa Mohebi, Director General of Tehran Province Prisons
11. Ali Chaharmahali, Director of Evin Prison
12. Kiumars Azizi, Commander of Law Enforcement Forces (NAJA), Markazi Province
13. Abbas Ghasemi, Prosecutor General, Markazi Province
14. Abdolali Asgari, Director General, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)
15. Mohammad Ebrahim Zarei, Sanandaj Governor
Notes to the Editor
The Iranian authorities have a history of supressing the right to freedom of assembly, association, and expression. The protests of December 2017/January 2018 were the largest since 2009, when Iranians took to the streets across the country to protest alleged irregularities in the re-election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The protests were brutally repressed, dozens were killed, at least a dozen died in custody, and well over 5,000 were arrested.
Justice for Iran (JFI) is a London-based non-governmental human rights organization. The stated objective of the organization is to “address and eradicate the practice of human rights abuses and impunity that empowers officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran to perpetrate widespread human rights violations against Iranian citizens, and to hold them accountable for their actions.”
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