US Blacklists Iran’s Interior Minister Over Human Rights Abuses

May 20, 2020 Updated: May 20, 2020

WASHINGTON—The United States on May 20 imposed sanctions on Iran’s interior minister, accusing him of having a role in serious human rights abuses, including giving orders that led to violence against peaceful protesters, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

The Treasury said in a statement that Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli gave orders authorizing the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) to use lethal force in response to protests in November, leading to the killing of protesters, including at least 23 minors.

The Treasury’s action on Wednesday also blacklisted seven senior officials of the LEF and a provincial commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Steven Mnuchin
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discusses details for economic relief during the daily COVID-19 response briefing as Small Business (SBA) Administrator Jovita Carranza listens at the White House in Washington, on April 2, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

The LEF Cooperative Foundation—which the Treasury said is controlled by the LEF and which is active in Iran’s energy, construction, services, technology, and banking industries—was also blacklisted, as were its director and members of the board of trustees. The organization’s name in Iran is Bonyad Taavon NAJA.

Wednesday’s action freezes any U.S.-held assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.

“The United States will continue to hold accountable Iranian officials and institutions that oppress and abuse their own people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have spiked since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal struck by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and began reimposing sanctions that had been eased under the accord.

By Daphne Psaledakis and Susan Heavey