February 28, 2011 | Jerusalem Post
EU to Discuss Sanctions Against Over 80 Iranian Officials
BERLIN – The European Union is slated to probe in early March the possibility of targeted human rights sanctions against Iranian leaders.
Writing on the Politico website, Washington-based journalist Laura Rozen first reported Saturday on her foreign policy blog that “European diplomats have prepared a list of over 80 Iranian militia and police unit commanders, prison guards, prosecutors, judges and ministry bureaucrats that will be taken up for discussion for possible European Union sanctions for alleged torture, murder and other human rights violations against Iranian citizens.”
Politico’s Rozen provided a link in her blog to the EU document, which outlines the names of the targeted individuals. The list is, by EU standards, expansive and includes Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – an organization already outlawed as a global terrorist entity by the US – leaders, Basij militia commanders and penitentiary officials from the Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, such as Hassan Akharian, Mr. Mirzaghayi, Mr. Zeynali, Mr. Youssefi, and Mr. Morradi.
However, the EU is unwilling to sanction the IRGC as an organization, whose military-industrial complex tentacles reach into as much as 75 percent of the Iranian economy. The EU is Iran’s second largest trade partner after China.
The EU human rights sanctions could ratchet up the pressure on Iran’s rulers, largely because many sanctions experts view human rights penalties, and a “name and shame” strategy, as a particularly vulnerable pressure point for a government that is worried about its international image at a time of turmoil in the Muslim world.
According to the proposed EU human rights sanctions list, the measures would also target Reza Taghipour, the minister of information and communications, and his deputy, Abdolmajid Riyazi, as well as Mehrdad Omidi, who runs the Computer Crimes Unit of the Iranian Police. Behrouz Kamalian, who oversees an IRGC-controlled cyber-group, is also named.
While there has been a whirl of human rights rhetoric in the Brussels-based EU parliament about Iran, the only EU country to take diplomatic action against Iran because of its human rights violations was the Netherlands because of the extra-judicial execution of the Dutch-Iranian woman Zahra Bahrami.
Iran’s judiciary hanged Bahrami in late January based on charges of alleged narcotics trafficking. Critics claim Iran’s rulers used phony narcotics charges as a pretext to execute her for participating in pro-democracy demonstrations against Iran’s reported manipulation of the 2009 presidential election. The Netherlands froze diplomatic relations with Iran’s regime and recalled its ambassador, who has since returned to Tehran.
Responding to the execution of Bahrami, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, whose chairman is Italy’s Gabriele Albertini, issued a statement in early February, noting that “Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs believe that the time has come for the EU to devise a new, broader strategy towards Iran, which goes beyond the nuclear issue and addresses Iran’s human rights record and regional role. They call on EU foreign ministers to impose sanctions targeting Iranian officials responsible for serious human rights abuses since the disputed presidential election of June 2009, in line with similar measures taken by the USA last September.”
The Obama administration imposed unprecedented human rights sanctions last September on eight high-level Iranian government officials for committing torture, rape, violent beatings and unlawful detention of Iranian citizens. The sanctions aimed to penalize only the members of the Iranian regime and military apparatus who were responsible for crushing the pro-democracy protests in 2009.