US Imposes New Sanctions on Iran Judges, Criticizes Human Rights Record

December 19, 2019 Updated: December 19, 2019
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The United States on Dec. 19 announced additional sanctions on Iran, this time targeting two judges from the Islamic regime’s Revolutionary Court. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the sanctions while denouncing the country’s human rights abuses in a speech at the State Department.

In his speech, Pompeo criticized the regime for its killing of protesters in November. At least 200,000 people took part in the mass demonstrations and around 7,000 were arrested, marking possibly the largest anti-government demonstrations in the regime’s 40-year history. Pompeo denounced Iranian officials for “hypocrisy” by depriving citizens, particularly ethnic and religious minorities, of their constitutional rights.

“We’ve seen these stories, we’ve seen the faces. The faces of the victims will not be forgotten and the faces of the perpetrators will be pursued,” he said. “Iran’s human rights violations are worse than unacceptable.

“They’re evil and they’re wrong and they fundamentally repress the incredible energy, entrepreneurship, and spirit of one of the world’s great peoples,” he continued.

Pompeo also gave a special welcome to Iranian victims in the audience who had survived the regime’s persecution. He offered a message to the regime’s leaders that if they seek stability and prosperity, they “must respect human rights.”

“The United States will stand and has stood under President Trump with the Iranian people,” Pompeo said, later adding, “The appeasement of the regime simply will not work.”

The administration has so far received more than 36,000 pieces of information on the regime’s brutality, Pompeo said. The U.S. government has asked the people of Iran to send evidence. Earlier this month, the State Department accused Iranian security forces of killing potentially more than 1,000 people as part of a crackdown against recent protests.

Amnesty International updated its death toll on Dec. 16, saying that at least 304 people were killed in protests in November. The number was significantly higher than what the rights group had reported previously.

Pompeo said he had redesignated Iran as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom, a status that adds a layer of potential sanctions against the government. He also said the administration would enact travel bans on officials found to have violated human rights, as well as their families.

“The world should know Iran is among the worst violators of basic fundamental religious freedoms,” he said.

The sanctions by the Treasury Department freeze any assets the two judges may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from any transactions with them. The sanctions will also affect foreigners doing business with the judges, who sit at the top of two branches of the Tehran Revolutionary Court.

The judges, Abolghassem Salavati and Mohammad Moghisseh, have for years punished Iranian citizens and dual-nationals “for exercising their freedoms of expression or assembly,” according to the Treasury Department. Political prisoners, in many of the cases, were sent to their deaths by the judges.

“The United States will not be a bystander to ongoing oppression and injustice in Iran,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “This Administration is targeting those in the regime who seek to censor protestors, persecute religious minorities, and silence the Iranian people.”

The Trump administration is ramping up its pressure on the Iranian regime, with a growing number of sanctions imposed on the country. On Dec. 11, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on an Iranian airline as well as an Iranian shipping network involved in smuggling lethal aid to Yemen on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force.

Pompeo said if the Iranian regime truly followed its commitments, everything could change.

“If the regime in Iran respects the rights of all Iranians, it abides by its commitments, it can win back respect from its own citizens,” he told reporters. “It can shed the black label of being an outlaw regime in the eyes of the world.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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