Ottawa unveils more sanctions against Iranian regime’s ‘gross, systematic human rights violations’

By Cristin Schmitz

Law360 Canada (January 9, 2023, 3:10 PM EST) -- Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has announced that Canada is imposing sanctions against two Iranian individuals and three Iranian entities that Ottawa says are complicit in the Iranian regime’s “brutal repression” of demonstrators and other “brave Iranian voices,” and in “deploying propaganda that serves as a pretext for Iran’s destabilizing activities domestically and abroad.”

“The Iranian regime must stop its horrific crackdowns on demonstrations,” Joly said in a statement from Global Affairs Canada Jan. 9. “Freedom of speech is for everyone, and Canada will continue to support those who stand up and demand that their voices be heard.”

The sanctions, which became effective Jan. 6 against the newly listed individuals, are pursuant to the Special Economic Measures (Iran) Regulations which target the Iranian regime’s “gross and systematic human rights violations, including its persecution of women,” as well as the regime’s “ongoing breach of international peace and security.”

The sanctions under the regulations impose dealings prohibitions on listed persons, which, in most cases, prohibit persons in Canada, and Canadians outside Canada, from engaging in any activity related to any property of the listed persons or providing financial or related services to them.

Individuals sanctioned for complicity in the Iranian regime’s gross and systematic human rights violations are also inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Global Affairs Canada said the latest Iranians to be sanctioned are:
  • Vahid Yaminpour, the deputy minister of sports and youth and a secretary of the Supreme Council of Youth Affairs, who Ottawa describes as “a state propaganda official who has hosted programs, produced content and provided advisory services for the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation, which is a state-controlled media organization that directly answers to the supreme leader’s office and propagates the regime’s talking points”; and
  • Mohsen Qomi, a Shi’a cleric, member of the Press Supervisory Board and Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, and a permanent member of the Assembly of Experts, the body responsible for appointing Iran’s next “supreme leader.” Ottawa said this “senior regime insider also acts as a deputy adviser for international affairs in the supreme leader’s office and as an adviser to the supreme leader on international communications.

Global Affairs Canada said the newly-sanctioned entities are:
  • The 15 Khordad Foundation (also known as the Fifteenth of Khordad Foundation), “an untaxed revolutionary foundation that enriches Iranian kleptocrats, finances the operations of the most senior officials in the regime and implements the regime’s domestic policies and regional activities that threaten international peace and security”;
  • Iran Newspaper, an official publication of Iran, “which disseminates the regime’s disinformation and propaganda to justify the state’s domestic repression and its destabilizing regional operations through organizations such as the Quds Force and Iran-aligned non-state actors”; and
  • The Press Supervisory Board, an organ of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, that is empowered by Iran’s Press Law “to arbitrarily shut down news outlets and magazines should the board’s membership deem their published content to be harmful to the ‘bases of the Islamic Republic’ or insulting to the supreme leader, senior members of the Shi’a clergy or public morals.”

The federal government said Canada will continue to co-ordinate with other countries “to make sure that the Iranian regime answers for its gross and systematic human rights violations and actions that continue to threaten international peace and security.”

Prior to these sanctions announced Jan. 9, Canada had imposed sanctions on 125 Iranian individuals and 186 Iranian entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s security, intelligence and economic apparatus, Global Affairs Canada said.

In 2012, Canada designated Iran as a supporter of terrorism under the federal State Immunity Act. In concert with the federal Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, the designation authorizes victims sue Iran civilly for losses or damages from an act of terrorism with links to Iran committed anywhere in the world.

On Jan. 8, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at a commemoration ceremony in Toronto marking three years since the Iranian military illegally shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, killing 176 passengers including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents of Canada.

Trudeau noted the federal government has barred Iranian regime members from taking safe haven in Canada and pledged that Ottawa will do more to ensure the “brutal, murderous regime is held fully to account.”

On Dec. 28, 2022, Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, members of the International Coordination and Response Group for the victims of Flight PS752, announced they have requested that Iran submit to binding arbitration of the dispute related to the downing of Flight PS752 by two surface-to-air missiles “launched unlawfully and intentionally by members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps air defence unit,” pursuant to Article 14 of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation of 1971.

“The Coordination Group remains committed to pursuing efforts to hold Iran accountable for its multiple breaches of its international legal obligations pursuant to several treaties,” the four countries said. “This action is part of our broader approach to ensuring there is transparency, justice and accountability the victims and their families.”

Trudeau said if Iran fails to comply with the binding arbitration within six months, the countries will bring the case to the International Court of Justice.

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