Canada Sanctions Iranian Judges Over Human Rights Abuse

The Canadian government has placed sanctions on Iranian judges, citing human rights violations. This includes claims of overuse of the death penalty, harsh prison terms, and unfair trials, along with systemic oppression of women. The sanctions’ aim is to prohibit the selected judges from holding assets in Canada and from dealing with Canadian citizens.

“Today’s sanctions list 7 individuals for their role in gross and systemic human rights violations in Iran’s criminal justice system, notably Iran’s Revolutionary Courts,” reads a statement from the Canadian government.

The group of judges comprises Morteza Barati (Esfahan Revolutionary Court), Hadi Mansouri (Mashhad Revolutionary Court), Musa Asif Al Hosseini (Karaj Revolutionary Court), Seyed Mahmoud Sadati (Shiraz Revolutionary Court), Mehrdad Tahamtan, (Shiraz Advisory Judge of the Criminal Court), Mohammad Moghiseh (Supreme Court – Tehran Revolutionary Court), and Heidar Asiyabi (Gorgan Revolutionary Court).

Of course, sanctions are most effective when they affect important assets that would negatively impact the target if taken away. The Canadian government did not provide details on the extent of its previous dealings with the sanctioned individuals, but establishing sanctions signals intent to address the judges’ human rights violations – especially if those sanctions are backed up by enforcement. While a single government’s efforts may be inefficacious, other countries may follow Canada’s lead and thereby collectively produce a powerful effect. In fact, they must take a strong stand against human rights violations by using every avenue of diplomacy to negotiate an end to the abuse. Together, the international community must set forth clear expectations of acceptable human treatment to the Iranian government, support the organizations dedicated to documenting and preventing further injustices, and pressure those officials who are responsible.

It is vital that any and all of these future strategies be developed in a framework that addresses the issues at hand. Many of the international community’s condemnations and political actions have heretofore not been focused on Iran’s violations of human rights; while these states have claimed that their disapproval comes in response to the abuses of women and minorities, the reality is that the conflict over Iran’s rumoured nuclear programme is the true foundation of their policies. The sanctions that Canada put in place against the Iranian judges were enacted under the United Nations Act and the Special Economic Measures Act – both of which were created in response to fears about Iran’s nuclear program. A paper published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace states that the E.U.’s (and its allies’) recent efforts have focused on reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal.

The current situation in Iran underscores the need for a new framework that responds, not to the West’s political interests, but to the current human rights issues faced by Iranian citizens. Targeted sanctions are a good first step, but much more needs to be done in order to facilitate true change for the people of Iran. If these measures are to be effective, they cannot be built on the crumbling foundations of failed negotiations. The defense of human rights must take priority over external actors’ political agendas.

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