Spanberger Joins U.S. House & U.S. Senate Lawmakers in Bipartisan Effort Urging Human Rights Sanctions Against Iranian Parliament Members

At Least 519 Protesters Have Been Killed by the Regime & More Than 19,000 Iranians Have Been Arrested Since the Death of Mahsa Amini In September 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger joined a bipartisan, bicameral effort urging the Biden Administration to impose stricter sanctions against members of the Iranian Parliament — or Majiles — in response to their ongoing support of cruel human rights abuses against peaceful protestors.

On September 14, 2022, Iran’s morality police arrested 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for allegedly incorrectly wearing a hijab, and she died shortly after being detained. Following the news of her death, masses of protesters mobilized across 80 cities in Iran, voicing support for women’s rights and democratic governance. Since last September, at least 519 protesters have been killed by the regime, and more than 19,000 Iranians have been arrested. Four of those arrested have been executed, and at least 109 more Iranians have been sentenced to death in grossly unfair trials or face charges that usually result in capital punishment.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Spanberger and a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers urged the Administration to impose sanctions against 227 Iranian Majles members who have called for “no leniency” against the protestors. Additionally, the lawmakers encouraged sanctions to be applied to the family members of these Majles members, many whom still seek to study, work, or acquire property in the United States. The letter also reiterates the United States’ continued support for the brave Iranian protestors and condemns the autocratic regime for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.

“Innocent lives hang in the balance, and there is an urgent need to deter the perpetrators of these murders from committing further violence,” wrote Spanberger and her colleagues. “We strongly encourage the Departments of State and the Treasury to levy further sanctions against Iranian officials and institutions involved in this brutal campaign of intimidation and extermination.”

The lawmakers continued, “The Islamic Republic of Iran lacks democratic legitimacy, and the members of its parliament are not true democratic representatives of the Iranian people.”

The letter was led in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), as well as U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), James Lankford (R-OK), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). In addition to Spanberger, the letter is led in the U.S. House by U.S. Representatives Claudia Tenney (R-NY-24) and Katie Porter (D-CA-47), as well as Joe Wilson (R-SC-02), Wiley Nickel (D-NC-13), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), Don Bacon (R-NE-02), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-18), Ted Lieu (D-CA-36), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10), Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Mike Levin (D-CA-49), Michelle Steel (R-CA-45), Nancy Mace (R-SC-01), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL-27), and Tom McClintock (R-CA-05).

Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is below.

Dear Secretary Blinken and Secretary Yellen:

We write with regard to the deteriorating state of human rights in Iran, particularly the increasing series of unlawful executions carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran. In response to this tragic destruction of life and clear violation of human rights, we urge you to take further actions – and encourage international partners to join us – to impose much clearer costs on the Iranian regime for the execution of protesters.

Since September 2022, at least 519 protesters have been killed by the regime, and more than 19,000 individuals have been arrested.1 Of those arrested, at least 109 Iranians currently in detention have been already sentenced to death in grossly unfair trials or face trumped up charges that typically result in capital punishment.2 Four Iranian protestors have been executed, and reports indicate that further executions are imminent. Innocent lives hang in the balance, and there is an urgent need to deter the perpetrators of these murders from committing further violence. We strongly encourage the Departments of State and the Treasury to levy further sanctions against Iranian officials and institutions involved in this brutal campaign of intimidation and extermination.

As a start, sanctions are warranted against the Iranian Majles (parliament) and 227 of its members, who in November 2022, signed an open statement calling for the Iranian government and judiciary to “show no leniency” toward protesters and compared them to ISIS terrorists. The Islamic Republic of Iran lacks democratic legitimacy, and the members of its parliament are not true democratic representatives of the Iranian people. More than half of all candidates for the Majles’ 2020 election were disqualified by the Guardian Council, an antidemocratic body whose 12 members are appointed directly and indirectly by Supreme Leader Khamenei. The only candidates who passed the Guardian Council’s vetting to become parliamentarians are regime loyalists selected by other regime insiders. Thus, their shameful statement was not about   ensuring law and order, but about advancing and legitimizing an apparatus of terror and repression.

The statement by the Iranian Majles members further undermined the rights originally assured to Iranians under the Islamic Republic of Iran’s 1979 constitution. For example, Article 27 of the Iranian constitution states that “public gatherings and marches may be freely held.” Further, Article 32 states that “no one may be arrested except by the order and in accordance with the procedure laid down by law.” Article 34 states that citizens have the right to “seek justice by recourse to competent courts.” And, finally, Article 38 states that “all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information are forbidden.” These rights, and many others, have been systematically trampled upon by the Islamic Republic and its judiciary – with the support of the Majles and a majority of its members.

In March 2022, the Department of the Treasury sanctioned the Russian State Duma and 339 of its members for their support of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. We now urge the Biden Administration to apply the same pressure against the Iranian Majles and its members for its support of Khamenei’s brutal killing and execution of Iranians.

While imposing sanctions against the Majles members is important, it is also necessary to extend those sanctions to their family members who may seek to study, work, or acquire property in the United States. Congress had the foresight for this need, and enacted legislative provisions such as Section 105 of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, the Global Magnitsky Act and section 7031(c) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 provide the Secretary of State the authority to identify officials of foreign governments, and their immediate family members who are involved in a “gross violation of human rights,” as ineligible for entry into the United States. We believe the deadly rhetoric and policies advanced by these Majles members meet that criterion. Also, Presidential Proclamation 9932, which bars entry into the United States of senior Iranian government officials and their families is also applicable. In this case, and pursuant to the clear text of the proclamation, it is well within the purview of the Secretary of State to determine that members of the Majles fall under the category of “senior officials of the government of Iran” for the purposes of imposing visa restrictions on members of the Majles and their family.

Should you come to the determination that neither Section 7031(c) or Presidential Proclamation 9932 confer the needed authorities, we ask that you provide us with sufficient justification for such a determination. Further, we ask that you immediately consult with Congress on any legislative remedy to ensure that the Executive Branch has all necessary legal tools to sanction these members of the Iranian regime and impose costs on their family. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

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