The human rights situation in Iran is deteriorating day by day, with the security forces taking increasingly brutal action against the women and men on the streets, who are demanding nothing more than their universal human rights. Over 13,000 people are said to have been detained and over 250 shot or beaten to death. The systematic oppression of women and ethnic, religious and sexual minorities in Iran is nothing new, but it is currently reaching unprecedented levels. The situation in Iran is becoming increasingly dangerous for German nationals, too.
There can be no “business as usual” in our bilateral relations with a state that treats the lives of its own citizens with such contempt. The human rights sanctions that we introduced together with our European partners were a first step. We are now adapting our bilateral relations to the current situation with further measures in a total of four areas.
Firstly, as previously announced, there is the next EU human rights sanctions package, which we are currently preparing. Further perpetrators of human rights violations will be made subject to sanctions. Meanwhile, we are looking into listing family members, too. While sanctions are in principle introduced at EU level, for good reason, in order to have the maximum impact, we have also taken the special measure of reviewing all options for national action in addition to this. For example, national visas will in future only be issued to holders of official and diplomatic passports when absolutely necessary. Additional national travel restrictions will also be imposed on members of EU-listed Iranian organisations.
Secondly, the brutal violence and repression cannot be without consequences for those responsible. Human rights are universal, and anyone who rides roughshod over them must expect to be held to justice sooner or later. We must therefore ensure that the situation in Iran remains on the international agenda and that evidence can be collected and documented. This is in fact the responsibility of the relevant international bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council, but recently these bodies have been repeatedly blocked on key issues. We are therefore taking a dual-track approach. We are advocating a special human rights council in Geneva, are working on a strong resolution in the General Assembly and are supporting the UN Special Rapporteur for Iran. Until a UN mechanism has been established, however, we aim to support non-governmental organisations in documenting and collecting evidence of human rights crimes.
Thirdly, Iranian civil society – which is setting new standards for the definition of courage on a daily basis – needs our support. Although it is currently almost impossible for us to support human rights projects in Iran itself, it is important for our solidarity with the protestors on Iran’s streets to translate into tangible results. We have therefore launched a call for human rights projects with the Iranian exile community in countries neighbouring Iran and are also working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to find ways to help improve the human rights situation. We are providing places in special protection programmes for particularly at-risk individuals working in culture, science, the media and civil society.
Fourthly, we are taking the necessary steps with regard to our bilateral relations, too. The existing sanctions regime means that our economic contacts are already severely restricted. The last few weeks have been used for intensive efforts to critically review the few remaining instruments in the area of trade and finance, including with regard to business relations that still exist with Iranian banks. Where bilateral dialogue is still taking place, for example in the area of economy and energy, we will suspend this. The same goes for German cultural institutions and teachers working in Iran – we will be significantly reducing their presence.
During this phase, we are also keeping a particularly watchful eye on the protection of our German nationals and the security of everyone who lives in Germany, and will take further measures where necessary.