April 20, 2010 | Quote

Lieberman, McCain Push Iran Human Rights Bill

Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman, along with eight other co-sponsors, announced a bipartisan bill Thursday to try to curb civil rights abuses in Iran.

The legislation, which would be the first to impose sanctions on Iran for civil rights infractions, would create a public list of abusers published on the State and Treasury Department web sites and would ban those individuals cited from obtaining American visas, conducting financial transactions with U.S. entities and would freeze assets and properties held within the U.S.

The announcement of the Senate bill comes amid reports of attacks on several Iranian opposition leaders in Iran today during demonstrations to mark the 31st anniversary of the Iranian revolution, and widespread interruptions in Iranian Internet and email service.

“Moussavi’s wife [was] beaten badly, Karroubi [was] attacked twice and his entourage shot at, Karroubi’s son was arrested, Khamenei’s own nephew [was] arrested,” Los Angeles based Iran pro-democracy activist Pooya Dayanim told POLITICO, referring to opposition leaders Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and the nephew of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

“We hope this threatens the abusers in Iran and we hope this legislation says to the protestors, your struggle is difficult but as has been the case for those who have fought tyrannies throughout history, that ultimately the cause of freedom and justice will prevail,” Lieberman said.

Other co-sponsors of the bill include Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Senators Evan Bayh (D.-Ind.), Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Casey (D-Penn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.).

The Obama administration is also stepping up its focus on the Iranian human rights situation. Top State Department Iran official John Limbert is in Geneva advocating in advance of a UN Human Rights Council “Universal Periodic Review” of Iran scheduled for Monday.

The UPR is a “peer review of every country’s human rights record every four years,” a U.S. official said.

“As Iran sanctions go, this [bill] should not be controversial,” a Senate aide said of the McCain/Lieberman bill, which is modelled on the JADE Act – the legislation put forward in late 2007 by then-Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden and then-House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos against the Burmese junta, after its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

“The real prize will be convincing the Europeans to consider similar targeted sanctions against human rights abusers in Iran,” the Senate aide continued.

“The key to this legislation is to target the senior [Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps] commanders who are both human rights abusers and deeply involved in running those IRGC front companies generating enormous profits for the Guard and the Basij,” said the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz.