EU sanctions 8 Iranian security officials over 2019 crackdown

By: AFP      Published: 07:47 PM, 12 Apr, 2021
EU sanctions 8 Iranian security officials over 2019 crackdown

The EU on Monday added eight Iranian security officials, including the chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, and three notorious prisons to a sanctions blacklist over a 2019 protest crackdown.

The move to impose asset freezes and visa bans, effective immediately with publication in the bloc's official journal, comes at a sensitive time as Brussels mediates efforts to revive the nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran.

The listing said Guards commander Hossein Salami "bears responsibility for serious human rights violations".

Those under his command had "used lethal force to suppress the November 2019 protests in Iran, causing the deaths of and injuries to unarmed protesters", it said.

Also hit with sanctions is the head of the Basij paramilitary force, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' ground forces, and Iran's police chief.

Three detention facilities where the EU alleged torture of detainees had taken place were put on the blacklist. 

In November 2019 a surprise hike in fuel prices sparked a wave of protests across Iran, before they were put down amid a near-total internet blackout.

At least 304 people died in the unrest, according to London-based Amnesty International, while some authorities in Iran have announced 230 deaths during what they claimed were "riots".

The United Nations said there were mass arrests following the events of 2019, but no details have been released about how many were detained and how many are still held.

Iran talks

The decision to target the top Iranian officials was unveiled as negotiators in Vienna try to make progress on efforts to return the United States to the 2015 nuclear deal after former leader Donald Trump had Washington withdraw. 

The EU on Friday described the talks as "constructive", with those involved looking to persuade Washington to drop swingeing sanctions reimposed by Trump and for Tehran to roll back breaches of the agreement. 

US President Joe Biden has said he wants to revive the agreement, which places limits on the Islamic republic's nuclear programme in return for relief from biting economic sanctions.

But Tehran and Washington each insist the other side must make the first move. 

A European diplomat told AFP that the decision on new sanctions had been in the pipeline for a long time and that it had been decided to press ahead with them despite it coinciding with the nuclear negotiations.

The EU sanctions list on rights abuses in Iran dates back to 2011, when the authorities launched a crackdown on major protests. It now contains 89 individual and four entities. 

It is separate to the sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear programme, which were dropped by Brussels as part of the 2015 deal.