The European Union has a message for Iran and its human rights violations. The message is that these violations need to stop or there will be consequences for this behavior. The EU backed it up in early April with the extension of restrictive measures, which include asset freezing and visa bans, that targeted 82 individuals and one entity considered responsible for human rights violations in Iran.
The existing ban on exports to Iran of equipment, which might be used for internal repression and of equipment for monitoring telecommunications, has also been renewed. Some of these individuals include members of Iran’s judiciary and other government offices. One such individual is Mortazavi Said, the former prosecutor general of Tehran. According to the EU regulation, he issued a blanket order used for the detention of hundreds of activists, journalists, and students. In January 2010, a parliamentary investigation held him directly responsible for the detention of three prisoners who subsequently died in custody. In November 2014, his role in the deaths of detainees was officially recognized by the Iranian authorities. In spite of all this, he was acquitted by an Iranian Court on August 19, 2015 on the charges of the torture and deaths of three young men at the Kahrizak detention center in 2009.
This is just one of multiple examples given in the EU regulation that names the individuals receiving the restrictive violations.
In advance of their decision, the FIDH shared with the relevant EU actors the “updated details on the individuals designated to the EU restrictive measures responding to serious human rights violations in Iran” compiled by its member organization Justice for Iran.
This document contains information which contributed to the informed decision by Member States. It notably highlights how 19 out of the 82 human rights violators on the EU list still serve in the same posts and how 42 have been assigned to new posts since the last review. Their human rights violations are known by the regime and in some cases, actually approved by the regime.
The ban has been extended to 2018. The original ban was put in place in 2011. The 2011 decision was meant to target “persons complicit in or responsible for directing or implementing grave human rights violations” in a number of domains, including freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the right to due process, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, or the death penalty.
These restrictions also bring to light the larger issue, which is that human rights are widely ignored throughout Iran’s ruling class, despite continued international pressure.
As the Iranian election draws closer, it is important to note that none of the candidates for the presidency has an acceptable human rights record. According to Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi in recent interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), she was particularly appalled by the candidacy of Ebrahim Raisi. Ebadi won in 2003 for her defense of human rights in Iran.
“His involvement in atrocities and the massacre of prisoners because of their political or religious views in the 1980s will not be forgotten,” said Ebadi. “They sent waves of young people to their graves for their views against the state and would not tell their families where many of them were buried.”
Ebadi served as a human rights lawyer in Iran before being forced to flee the country in 2009.
It is also important to note that the Iranian government has never acknowledged the mass executions took place in 1988. Many of the victims were buried or dumped in unmarked graves and many families were never told where their loved ones were buried. Others were told not to hold memorial services for their lost loved ones.
“Mr. Raisi was one of the officials who signed those execution orders,” said Ebadi. “He is even identified by name on Ayatollah Montazeri’s tape recording.”
The prisoners, who had already been sentenced, did not know they were facing the death penalty when they were brought in front of various death committees around the country. During these meetings, they were questioned about their religious and political beliefs. If they gave the wrong answers, they were sentenced to die.
“Unfortunately, the current president and the other candidates don’t have an acceptable human rights record either,” said Ebadi. “Mr. Rouhani cannot escape responsibility and blame the judiciary for the fact that the Intelligence Ministry under his administration has ordered the arrests of many journalists and civil rights activists.”
While the move by the EU is welcomed, it is clear that human rights violations are rampant throughout the ruling class of Iran, starting at the very top. The focus is on grabbing a greater share of the strategic assets of the Iranian people, not human rights. The hardliners support an economy largely controlled by the IRGC, while the “moderates” support a more economy that allows them to use foreign investment to undermine the IRGC and grab funds for themselves.
In the end, the election merely demonstrates how the regime is determined to stay in power, no matter what the cost to the Iranian people.