Last week it almost seemed that EU leaders had finally taken it upon themselves to take concrete action against human rights abusers such as Iran’s leaders.
But within just a week of EU foreign ministers adopting the "global human rights sanctions regime," targeting those responsible for serious human rights violations, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was scheduled to hold the Europe-Iran Business Forum – an event that was postponed at the very last minute after the regime hung yet another former European resident over the weekend.
Borrell was to give a joint keynote address on Monday alongside the regime’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, despite a chorus of protests from rights groups and European lawmakers.
In announcing the event’s postponement, organizers said they look forward to holding the conference in the near future, adding: “European and Iranian policymakers continue to engage in the necessary dialogue to establish the appropriate conditions for effective economic diplomacy.”
Here are some fun facts to put the event in perspective:
Zarif’s "diplomat-terrorist" Assadollah Assadi is currently in a Belgian jail cell as he awaits a final verdict for his role in a bomb plot against the Iranian opposition’s 2018 gathering in France. Assadi, the Third Secretary at the Iranian embassy in Austria, was caught by European police handing over one pound of TATP explosives to two would-be bombers to attack the annual Free Iran gathering hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and attended by tens of thousands of the regime’s opponents. Belgian prosecutors told Assadi’s trial last month that the NCRI’s President-elect Maryam Rajavi was the primary target of the terror plot. But other speakers included former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, US House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Prosecutors asked the judges to hand Assadi the maximum 20-year sentence, pointing out that he had not been acting in a personal capacity, but was following instructions from his superiors, in other words Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani.
Over the weekend the regime executed Ruhollah Zam, a former French resident, for ostensibly playing a role in the 2018 anti-regime protests. While both France and the EU condemned his execution, they had done little in the preceding months to pressure the regime to halt the sentence. Instead, they had been busy encouraging European businesses to set up shop in Iran.
And then there’s Iran’s 1988 massacre. Following a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini, thousands of political prisoners, mainly members of the opposition People’s Mojahedin (PMOI or MEK), were extra-judicially executed by Death Commissions whose members today hold top positions, such as Iran’s Judiciary Chief and Justice Minister. A group of seven United Nations special rapporteurs and experts last week publicly announced that the massacre could amount to “crimes against humanity.” They signaled their support for an international investigation, adding that international inaction over the mass killings have emboldened Iran’s regime to continue to conceal the fate of the victims and to maintain a strategy of deflection and denial. The UN experts’ position was made public just two days after Borrell announced the EU’s "landmark agreement" to hold human rights abusers accountable.
Just when it seemed the EU was about to impose sanctions on Iran’s human rights abusers, EU leaders have turned on their heels and are instead encouraging business with a regime that massacres its opponents at home and uses its "diplomats" to transfer actual bombs to Europe to murder more of them abroad. Why was Borrell even thinking of speaking alongside the foreign minister of a regime that’s murdering dissidents and sending bombs to Europe? Why isn’t the EU pulling its diplomats from Tehran and downgrading ties to the terrorist regime?
If there’s even a shred of decency at the European External Action Service, they will join the UN experts, US Administration and international human rights groups in supporting an international investigation into the 1988 massacre and make good on their new "Magnitsky Act" to impose sanctions on perpetrators of Iran’s crime against humanity.
Hanif Jazayeri is a London-based news editor and Iranian opposition activist. Twitter: @HanifJazayeri