On Thursday, the U.S. extended its sanctions against individuals affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by sanctioning Sohrab Soleimani, who is the brother of a commander in the IRGC. He was sanctioned for his role in the abuses in Iranian prisons.
With this action, the U.S. essentially is freezing any assets that Soleimani might have in the country and bars U.S. citizens from conducting transactions with him. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, he is the supervisor of the office of the deputy for security and law enforcement of the state prisons organizations. Soleimani was also the former director general of the Tehran Prisons Organization, which was also sanctioned.
Qassem Soleimani, brother of Sohrab, leads the Quds Force, which is the elite special forces of the IRGC. He has been photographed visiting Iranian-led forces in Syria and Iraq. He also is already sanctioned by the U.S.
“The sanctions against human rights abusers in Iran’s prisons comes at a time when Iran continues to unjustly detain…various foreigners, including U.S. citizens,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary during a press briefing. “We join recent calls by international organizations and UN human rights experts for the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained or missing in Iran.”
The new human rights-related sanctions by the U.S. follow the arrests in Iran of a string of dual nationals from Western countries, many of whom have been detained on national security-related accusations. A U.S.-Iranian man and his wife were formally charged last month with holding social gatherings deemed illicit under Iran’s Islamic laws.
In the statement from the Treasury Department, officials said that the Tehran Prisons Organization oversees Evin Prison, where political prisoners have been subject to harsh interrogation, forced confessions, psychological and physical torture and denial of access to medical care. The statement also noted that in one event in April 2014, political prisoners were attacked and beaten, with 30 injured. After the attack, some of the injured were denied medical treatment, but were instead held in solitary confinement.
These new sanctions seem to be aimed at high prison officials and the Iranian prison system in response to the human rights abuses found within their prison system. These human rights abuses have only grown under the presidency of the so-called reformist Hassan Rouhani.
“There has been a disturbing and significant increase in the number of detentions and executions of Iranian citizens under President Rouhani, and the infamous Evin Prison under Sohrab Suleimani’s control has been a key facility in this program of domestic repression,” said a senior official on the White House National Security Council.
“Today’s designations highlight our continued support for the Iranian people and demonstrate our commitment to hold the Government of Iran responsible for its continued repression of its own citizens,” said John E. Smith, director of the Treasury Department’s Official of Foreign Assets Control, in a statement. “We will continue to identify, call out and sanction those who are responsible for serious human rights abuses in Iran.”
The sanctions do not conflict with U.S. obligations under the nuclear agreement and are not being leveled as part of that agreement, according to U.S. officials. Instead, they appear to be in response to a larger pattern of abuses against the Iranian people by the regime.
“We continue to see Government of Iran officials engage in repressive behavior against its own citizens, including through their mistreatment and abuse of prisoners,” said a background document provided by the State Department. “This is especially evident at Evin Prison, which is where numerous prisoners of conscience are held. We have documented these and many other human rights abuses perpetrated by the government of Iran in our annual State Department authored Human Rights, Religious Freedom, and Trafficking in persons’ reports.”