Two years ago this month, Iranian authorities violently cracked down on protests in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election victory. On Thursday, the United States imposed sanctions against three government entities and one individual for their connections to human rights abuses in Iran.
The sanctions imposed Thursday target Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the paramilitary Basij Resistance Force, Iran's national police and its chief, Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam.
The U.S. State Department and Treasury say those entities share responsibility for the sustained and severe violation of human rights in Iran.
State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at the State Department that these sanctions freeze any assets the designated persons and entities might have in the United States, and they prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with them.
"It also sends a clear message that we won't abide by Iran's continued human rights abuses. As I said, we have seen since the June 2009 disputed presidential elections a consistent pattern of human rights abuses going after activists, political parties," Toner said. "And today's efforts, which are part of an exhaustive process, as you know, that the Treasury Department undertakes, are an effort to call international attention to those people, and that is one element of it."
Toner could not immediately provide details about what assets, if any, were affected. He added that the sanctions are the result of an exhaustive legal process and are not tied to any breaking events.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement Thursday criticizing Iran for unjustly imprisoning or targeting political and human rights' activists, as well as religious and ethnic minorities.
Clinton says the sanctions reflect a U.S. commitment to hold accountable governments and officials that deprive their citizens of the future they deserve.
Human Rights Watch has called Iran's crackdown after the 2009 elections "a human rights disaster." It says thousands of peaceful protesters and dissidents were arrested to stifle dissent, and many reported being beaten, tortured, or sexually assaulted while in prison.