Washington has now put into force a wide array of sanctions on Tehran’s nuclear activities, but it has not fully taken advantage of the legal channels available to punish the ayatollahs’ brutal treatment of their own people. As Tzvi Kahn, Ahmed Shaheed, Rose Parris Richter, and Irwin Cotler demonstrate in a detailed report, this repression is overseen by the highest echelons of the Iranian government and works through an organized and complex bureaucratic machinery. Cotler writes:
It is crucial that the international community not turn a blind eye to what I have termed the fivefold Iranian threat—the nuclear threat, state-sponsorship of terror, regional hegemonic aggression that includes mass criminality in Syria, state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, and massive domestic repression. In particular, sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program should not distract from, or even sanitize, the ongoing massive domestic human-rights violations, which should be a centerpiece of international containment and sanctioning of the Iranian regime in solidarity with the . . . suffering of the Iranian people.
It is now possible to sanction human-rights offenders on a global level, [by making use of] the U.S. Global Magnitsky Human-Rights Accountability Act. [The] naming, shaming, and sanctioning of specific human-rights violators [is] indispensable to mobilizing a critical mass of global advocacy to address and redress human-rights violations in Iran. This can also include, as takes place in the Canadian parliament, holding an annual Iran Accountability Week in the U.S. Congress to shine the spotlight on human-rights violations in Iran through public hearings, witness testimony, and the like. This can further include developing an Iranian political prisoner-advocacy project in which members of Congress can take up the case and cause of Iranian political prisoners in concert with their fellow parliamentarians in Canada and elsewhere.
The report goes on to note that multiple high-ranking Iranian officials have been sanctioned by the European Union, but not by the U.S. In addition, it points out that “the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Trump signed into law in August 2017, requires the president to submit, and to update annually, a list of Iranians who commit human-rights abuses,” but that the White House has not yet submitted such a list. Correcting these oversights, according to the report, will serve to increase both diplomatic and economic pressure on Tehran, encourage America’s allies to follow suit, and provide moral support and perhaps even some protection to Iranian dissidents.