Washington: Arguing that there is "mounting evidence" of repression of Iranian opposition, the US announced additional sanctions against top Iranian officials, members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and others allegedly indulged in violation of human rights.
"These officials watch or under their command, Iranian citizens have been arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed and killed. Yet Iranian Government has ignored repeated calls from the international community to end these abuses, to hold to account those responsible and respect the rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Iran has failed to meet its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Hillary said at a joint press conference with the Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
"The steady deterioration in human rights conditions in Iran has obliged the US to speak out time and time again. And today (Wednesday), we are announcing specific actions that correspond to our deep concern. The mounting evidence of repression against anyone who questions Iranian Government decisions or advocates for transparency or even attempts to defend political prisoners is very troubling," she said.
This week, Iranian authorities banned two reformist political parties and shut down two more newspapers. This follows a series of convictions and harsh sentences for a number of political prisoners.
Two internationally recognised human rights defenders were sentenced to six-year prison terms. A student leader was given an eight and a half year sentence for insulting the president.
"Human rights lawyers, bloggers, journalists and activists for women`s rights have all been jailed and many have fallen ill due to mistreatment in prison," she said, adding this is the first time the US has imposed sanctions
against Iran based on human rights abuses.
"We would like to be able to tell you that it might be the last, but we fear not. We now have at our disposal a new tool that allows us to designate individual Iranians, officials responsible for or complicit in serious human rights violations, and do so in a way that does not in any way impact on the well-being of the Iranian people themselves," Hillary said.
Rather than relying on the traditional approach of broad-based sanctions on Iran, Geithner said this time the US has tried to focus on specific actors, institutions, and actions that threaten US interests as a whole.
"We have found that when we single out individuals and expose their conduct, banks, businesses, and governments around the world respond by cutting off their economic and financial dealings with these individuals, these institutions, these businesses," Geithner said, adding this strategy can be very effective.
"We`ve seen a growing number of companies and financial institutions in countries around the world cut or substantially curtail their financial ties with Iran. They have decided, they have looked at, they have assessed the risks of continuing to do business with these entities, and they have decided that those risks are too great.”
"And we already have indications that Iran`s leadership is concerned about the implications about the impact of this trend," he said.
US lawmakers have also welcomed the sanctions signed by US President Barack Obama.
Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, applaud Obama`s decision to invoke provisions in the recently enacted Iran sanctions legislation to take action against eight Iranian government officials responsible for carrying out serious human rights abuses.
"Both President Obama and the Congress are committed to protecting the rights of all Iranian citizens to participate in democratic and fair elections," he said.
"This provision, originally authored by Rep Mike McMahon, freezes property and financial assets of those responsible for human rights abuses perpetrated against Iranians who dared to speak out against the flagrant attempt by the government in Tehran to manipulate the results of last year’s Presidential Election," Berman said.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the measures are a good first step, but will lose their impact unless followed up with a strong second step.
"There are a lot more than a handful of Iranian regime officials that violate the human rights of their citizens. The US should act swiftly to impose sanctions on the regime`s bloodthirsty thugs across the board from the so-called `Supreme Leader` and those who support attacks on innocents from Tehran to Sderot to Buenos Aires; to Ahmadinejad who says there are no gay people in Iran even as the regime hangs them from cranes; to the prison guards who beat and rape political detainees at Evin and elsewhere. The persecuted people of Iran need all the support they can get," she said.
"I strongly urge the Executive Branch to, at long last, fully implement US sanctions laws against Iran and those who have facilitated Iran`s nuclear weapons pursuit by investing in Iran`s energy sector, providing the regime with the resources it needs to pursue its dangerous policies," Ros-Lehtinen said.