BRUSSELS, Jan. 23 (Reuters) – The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on more than 30 Iranian officials and organisations, including units of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, accusing them of a “brutal” crackdown on protesters and other human rights abuses .
The United States and Britain have also issued new sanctions against Iran, reflecting a deterioration in the West’s already poor relations with Tehran in recent months.
Foreign ministers of the 27 EU member states agreed on the measures at a meeting in Brussels.
The sanctions targeted units and senior officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) across Iran, including in Sunni-populated areas where state crackdown is intense, according to a list published in the Official Journal of the EU.
Some EU governments and the European Parliament have made it clear they want the IRGC as a whole added to the bloc’s list of terrorist organizations. But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell noted that this can only happen if a court in an EU country finds the IRGC guilty of terrorism.
“You can’t say ‘I consider you a terrorist because I don’t like you,'” he told reporters ahead of the talks in Brussels.
The new sanctions were imposed on 18 individuals and 19 entities. Those targeted will not be able to travel to the EU and any funds they hold in the EU may be frozen.
Relations between the EU and Tehran have spiraled downwards amid stalled efforts to revive talks over its nuclear program and as Iran moved to detain several European nationals.
The bloc has also become increasingly critical of Iran’s continued violent treatment of demonstrators, including executions, and the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia.
Sweden, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the new sanctions target “those driving the repression”.
“The EU strongly condemns the brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said in a Twitter post from the EU’s diplomatic mission.
The IRGC was established shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shiite clerical system of government. It has an estimated 125,000 strong military personnel with army, naval and air units, and commands the Basij religious militia which is often used in crackdowns.
“The Iranian regime and the Revolutionary Guards terrorize their own people day in and day out,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at Monday’s meeting.
The day before the rally in Brussels, more than a thousand people took to the streets of the city to protest against the detention in Iran of Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele.
Iran previously warned the EU against designating the IRGC as a terrorist entity.
Report by Andrew Gray, Bart Meijer Philip Blenkinsop and Parisa Hafezi, written by Ingrid Melander and Gabriela Baczynska, edited by Peter Graff, Timothy Heritage and John Stonestreet
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