Apr 12, 2021 - World

EU sanctions Iran over human rights abuses for first time since 2013

Hossein Salami

IRGC commander in chief Hossein Salami. Photo: Sepahnews/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The European Union imposed sanctions Monday against eight Iranian militia commanders and security officials, including the commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), over their role in a deadly crackdown on protests in 2019.

Why it matters: It's the first time the EU has sanctioned Iran for human rights abuses since 2013, and it comes as the bloc looks to facilitate a U.S. return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Background: Iran was shaken toward the end of 2019 by its deadliest political unrest since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, after protesters took to the streets across the country in response to an abrupt increase in gasoline prices.

  • The Iranian government imposed an internet blackout and cracked down with brutal force, arbitrarily detaining thousands of protesters and killing more than 300, according to Amnesty International.
  • Iranian officials told Reuters at the time that the death toll may have been as high as 1,500, after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered his top security officials to "do whatever it takes" to quell the unrest.

The big picture: The Iran sanctions, which also target three prisons where detainees have reportedly endured torture and inhumane conditions, are part of a newly enacted EU framework that imposes travel bans and asset freezes on human rights violators.

  • So far this year, the EU has also rolled out sanctions targeting human rights violations in Xinjiang, China; North Korea; Libya; Russia; South Sudan; and Eritrea.
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