BRUSSELS, Jan 23 (Reuters) – The European Union on Monday introduced new sanctions against Iran for a “brutal” crackdown on protests, but the bloc’s diplomacy chief said the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) of the country could not be listed as a terrorist group without a court ruling.
Relations between the 27 EU countries and Tehran soured during stalled efforts to relaunch talks on its nuclear program, further deteriorating as Iran moved to detain several European nationals.
The bloc has also become increasingly critical of the continued violent treatment of domestic protesters, including executions, and the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia.
Sweden, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said the bloc’s foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday “adopted a new set of sanctions against Iran, targeting those carrying out the repression”.
“The EU strongly condemns the brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said, according to a Twitter post from the country’s EU diplomatic mission. .
EU diplomats told Reuters last week that the bloc was set to add 37 names to a blacklist of Iranian individuals and entities banned from traveling to Europe and subject to an assets freeze.
The European Parliament has called on the EU to go further and list the IRGC as a terrorist entity, blaming it for cracking down on protests now in their fourth month and supplying drones for Russia’s war on Israel. Ukraine.
The IRGC was created shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution to protect the ruling Shia religious system. It has around 125,000 military personnel with army, navy and air units, and commands the religious Basij militia often used in repressions.
“The Iranian regime, the Revolutionary Guards are terrorizing their own people day after day,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at Monday’s meeting.
But the head of EU diplomacy said a court order with a concrete legal condemnation must first be issued in a member country before the EU itself can enforce such a designation.
“It’s something that can’t be decided without a court decision…first. You can’t say that I consider you a terrorist because I don’t like you,” Josep Borrell told reporters on the sidelines of the talks in Brussels.
The ministers were meeting in the political center of the EU where thousands of people had taken to the streets the day before to protest against the detention in Iran of Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele.
Iran has previously warned the EU against designating the IRGC as a terrorist entity.
Reporting by Bart Meijer and Philip Blenkinsop, writing by Ingrid Melander and Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Peter Graff, Timothy Heritage and John Stonestreet
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