While JFI welcomes the decisive action taken by the European Union in sanctioning Iran’s worst human rights offenders and its recognition that respect for human rights is non-negotiable in its dealings with Iran, it notes that the decision taken by the Council is nonetheless deficient in several material respects as outlined below. JFI encourages the Council to revisit the decision and remedy these deficiencies in as soon as possible.Justice for Iran (JFI) commends the decision of the European Union (EU), as announced this month, to sanction 32 Iranian state officials complicit in or responsible for human rights abuses in Iran. The council decision published in the official Journal of the European Union obliges the 27 Member States of the EU to enforce travel bans and asset freezes against a list of judges, law enforcement officials and commanders in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. It also calls upon third States, outside the European Union, to adopt similar restrictive measures. JFI recognizes that the EU action is in large part the result of the hard work and lobbying efforts of human rights activists and organizations that insisted on the implementation of targeted sanctions tied to human rights abuses as a necessary part of improving human rights situation in Iran. The full text of the Council of the European Union’s decision can be viewed here:
While JFI welcomes the decisive action taken by the European Union in sanctioning Iran’s worst human rights offenders and its recognition that respect for human rights is non-negotiable in its dealings with Iran, it notes that the decision taken by the Council is nonetheless deficient in several material respects as outlined below. JFI encourages the Council to revisit the decision and remedy these deficiencies in as soon as possible.
1- The names of ministers and high ranking executive officers are missing from the list.
Despite the fact that government ministers and high ranking executive officers are among the officials that bear the greatest responsibility for human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic of Iran, they are noticeably absent from the list published by the European Union. For example, some notable omissions include i) the Minister of Intelligence, who is directly responsible for arrests and the interrogation of political and human rights activists, ii) the Minister of Interior, who is the executive officer in charge of administering elections and responsible for suppressing street protests, and iii) the Minister of Communication and Innovation, who is directly responsible for filtering internet sites, wiretapping and other actions that result in violations of freedom of expression and communication. JFI stresses that in order for this piece of legislation to impose serious limitations on human rights violators in continuing their activities, such individuals and other related persons must be included.
The omission of these ministers and executive officers is all the more troubling because some, such as the Minister of Communication and Innovation, conduct business with international companies that sell software for filtering and wiretapping, and other tools that restrict internet and telecommunication, and which, particularly following the disputed presidential election of June 2009, have been used to suppress and censor the communications of the Iranian populace. JFI notes that although the EU adopted restrictive measures against companies involved in producing or exporting tools that restrict communication (such as filtering and surveillance software) in October 2010, no company—despite the continuance of these activities— has yet been sanctioned in accordance with those measures. JFI notes with some concern that given the lack of enforcement of sanctions on the activities of these companies in question, the absence of targeted sanctions against Iranian ministers and other executive officers involved in deals with these companies would permit these individuals to continue freely travelling to the European Union to meet and negotiate economic contracts with corporate leadership for these types of services. Such a state of affairs is unacceptable—JFI therefore urges the Council of the EU to revisit its decision and amend the list of sanctioned Iranian officials accordingly.
2- There must be appropriate implementation and oversight of the existing sanctions on the list—particularly in the monitoring of exceptions.
While JFI emphasizes the need to amend the list to include all Iranian government officials that bear the greatest responsibility for human rights abuses in Iran, it also stresses that for those officials already on the list, implementation of sanctions be vigorous. The exceptions delineated in the Council’s decision (e.g. Article 1, Sections 3, 4 and 6 and Article 2, Sections 3 and 4), while in some instances necessary for diplomatic and humanitarian reasons, as well as peace and security objectives, should be construed narrowly and carefully monitored so as not to create wide-ranging exceptions that encourage abuse.
Certain determinations made thus far in respect to these targeted sanctions demonstrate that concerns over the potential breadth of exceptions nullifying the impact and reach of the sanction legislation are real and urgent. For example, Ali Akbar Salehi, former head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and current Minister of Foreign Affairs, did not make the final list of those sanctioned on account of his status as an “important person” and a “party to nuclear negotiations”. While JFI will reserve judgement at this time on whether the determination about Salehi was correct, the decision underscores the extent to which exception to sanction can be made, sometimes in a manner that chafes at the underlying purpose of the sanctions regime.
It is imperative that Iranians striving for democracy and human rights gain certainty that the Council’s decision is not just a nominal action and that the Council’s decision does in fact seek accountability for violators of human rights in the Iranian government.
3- The information about perpetrators on the list should be updated and accurate.
JFI notes that the names of some of the officials on the existing list are not spelled correctly. For example the first name of the two Revolutionary court’s judges, Abolghasem Salavati and Yahya PirAbbasi are incorrect in the list. For purposes of monitoring and oversight, the names and identifying information of the officials on the list should be accurate. JFI continues to work focused on the issue to provide the most up-to-date and accurate information about Iranian officials on the list—including name and other identifying information—so that their actions and movements can be adequately and effectively monitored. However in the meantime, the Council should take steps to address these inaccuracies and correct them as soon as practicable.
JFI requests that the EU consider the matters aforementioned and amend the Council’s decision according to the relief requested above.
To this end, JFI requests that the EU set up a mechanism by which organizations focused on the on-going human rights crisis in Iran are given regular audience to raise concerns about persons on the list and the monitoring and oversight of sanctions against them, as well as to propose additions and deletions to the list