Iran’s Foreign Ministry has reacted angrily to the latest U.S. sanctions on the Tehran Prisons Organization and a top Iranian official for human rights abuses in the country. The ministry’s spokesman, Bahram Ghassemi, slammed the decision and said Washington was not in a position to hold others accountable for rights violations. “These measures and unilateral and bullying sanctions are illegitimate according to repeated United Nations resolutions and they have a negative impact on improving human rights.” In a statement released earlier today, Ghassemi argued that the new sanctions were politically-motivated and illegal. “More than anything else, this act of meddling by the U.S. government is a pretext to cover up human rights issues in that country and ultimately to sway public opinion from crimes and support by this country to systematic and appalling human rights abuses by some of its allies in the region, particularly the Zionist regime,” he concluded.  

Comment: Ghassemi’s remarks came as the United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (O.F.A.C.) yesterday sanctioned the Tehran Prison Organization and Sohrab Soleimani, a senior Iranian judicial official, in connection with human rights abuses in Iran. “Today’s designations highlight our continued support for the Iranian people and demonstrate our commitment to hold the Government of Iran responsible for its continued repression of its own citizens,” said O.F.A.C. Director John E. Smith.

The Treasury Department also emphasized that Washington will “continue to vigorously exercise its sanctions authorities outside the scope of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to counter the Iranian government’s support for terrorism, ballistic missile program, regional destabilization, and human rights abuses,” and maintained that “the sanctions imposed today are fully consistent with U.S. commitments under the JCPOA.”

The Tehran Prisons Organization, as the Treasury notes, is complicit in serious human rights abuses in Tehran’s Evin Prison, including torture of political prisoners. And Sohrab Soleimani is a younger brother of Iran’s Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was designated by the Treasury almost a decade ago for his support to terrorist groups in the region. Sohrab Soleimani served as the head of the Tehran Prisons Organization for 15 years, including during the tumultuous period of anti-government protests after the 2009 controversial presidential elections. Authorities in Iran arrested and reportedly tortured a great number of protesters. He was appointed as the deputy of the State Prisons Organization last year.

While the Iranian Foreign Ministry condemns the U.S. sanctions as unilateral move, it is not just Washington that is worried about the dismal human rights situation in the country. Earlier this week, the European Council extended human rights sanctions against Iran, which drew a similar reaction from Iran’s Foreign Ministry.