Three diplomats said on Wednesday that the European Union would impose sanctions on eight Iranian militia and police commanders, as well as three state bodies, next week in response to a deadly crackdown by Iranian authorities in November 2019.
The travel bans and asset freezes would be the first time the EU has placed sanctions on Iran for human rights violations since 2013, and are expected to go into effect after Europe’s Easter holidays next week, according to diplomats.
Members of Iran’s hardline Basij militia, which is commanded by the Revolutionary Guards, the Islamic Republic’s most strong and heavily armed security force, are among those attacked. The EU was considering sanctions, according to Reuters on Tuesday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the bloc remained quiet.
Iran has repeatedly rejected accusations by the West of human rights abuses. The Iranian Embassy in Brussels was not immediately available for comment, nor were other Iranian officials.
About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15, 2019, according to a toll provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials at the time. The United Nations said the total was at least 304.
Iran has called the toll given by sources “fake news”.
On March 9, U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, presented a report saying Tehran used lethal force during the protests and chided it for failing to conduct a proper investigation or for failing to hold anyone accountable.
Asked why the bloc had taken so long to process its sanctions response, one EU diplomat involved in the preparations cited the need for strong evidence against those hit with the punitive measures.
The bloc has also shied away from angering Iran in the hope of safeguarding a nuclear accord Tehran signed with world powers in 2015.
The three diplomats said the sanctions were not linked to efforts to revive the nuclear deal, which the United States pulled out of but now seeks to re-join. That deal made it harder for Iran to amass the fissile material needed for a nuclear bomb — a goal it has long denied — in return for sanctions relief.
After days of protests across Iran in November 2019, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued an order to crackdown on protesters, Reuters reported here in December 2019. That order, confirmed by three sources close to the supreme leader’s inner circle and a fourth official, set in motion the bloodiest crackdown on protesters since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
In a statement following publication of the Reuters article, a spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council described the death toll figure as “fake news,” according to semi-official Tasnim news agency.
Human rights in Iran are deteriorating, according to the United Nations. Iran’s high death penalty rate, juvenile executions, the use of torture to coerce confessions, and the legal marriage of girls as young as 10 years old were all recorded in the report released on March 9.