12 Dec 2022

New Zealand announces travel ban on Iranian security forces

8:42 am on 12 December 2022
- POOL - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the post-Cabinet press conference with Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta, Parliament, Wellington. 07 March, 2022.  NZ Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced travel bans against Iranian security force members. Photo: Pool / NZME

New Zealand will impose travel bans on members of the Iranian security forces connected to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini and the violent response to subsequent protests, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced.

Amini died in custody in September after being detained by morality police in Tehran for allegedly not wearing her hijab correctly.

Her death has sparked months of protests against the conservative religious leadership, which recently announced that the morality police were being disbanded.

"What happened to Mahsa Amini is inexcusable. New Zealand continues to stand with the people of Iran, especially women and girls," Ardern said in a statement.

"New Zealand will always advocate strongly for the right to peaceful protest and greater civil and political freedoms, and condemns the actions of the Iranian authorities in their brutal suppression of protesters simply advocating for basic universal rights."

The initial ban affects 22 people. They will not be allowed to enter or transit New Zealand.

"The travel bans send a message that we will not tolerate the denial of basic human rights and the violent suppression of protests in Iran," Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.

"New Zealand already has sanctions against Iranian individuals and companies under our UN sanctions, which involve asset freezes and export bans. Today we go further to target officials linked to the death of Mahsa Amini and the repression of protests that followed.

"We are imposing travel bans on those involved in the violent suppression of protests and human rights violations. They include members of the Morality Police, the Law Enforcement Command, and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

"The individuals include Hossein Salami, Commander in Chief of the IRGC; Gholam-Reza Soleimani, Commander of the Basij; Hossein Ashtari, Commander of the Police (Law Enforcement Command); and Mohammed Rostami, head of the Morality Police."

Green Party foreign affairs spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman told Morning Report the announcement was a disappointment because they wished to see wider targeted sanctions.

"Canada has named just over 10,000 people that it has sanctioned in relation to the violence in Iran so to say 20 people can't travel here is illusory as a measure."

Mahuta said New Zealand already had sanctions against Iranian individuals and companies under UN sanctions, which involve asset freezes and export bans.

But Ghahraman said the country needed to step in line with allies on finding a system for implementing sanctions.

"We don't have a sanctions regime that is autonomous to us which is why we need to do it in another way, unless we introduce legislation, like the Russia one, and the other way that others have done it is by designating people as terrorists."

By designating a group or people as a terrorist entity, it would put a freeze on their assets and ban funding mechanisms, and that would also be enforced on people associated with such an entity, she said.

In response, Ardern said New Zealand remained committed to responding to what was happening in Iran.

"We have also looked at for instance whether or not there are any Revolutionary Guards [IRGC] should be designated as a terrorist entity, that is a legal question. The advice I've had says it does not meet the legal criteria.

While Ghahraman said New Zealand was leading in its condemnation and calling for an investigation into human rights abuses, the country was still lagging in efforts domestically.

"The thing that really concerns me is that our government hasn't even done the work of finding out what links we have, there's no inventory of who has funds here, who is being funded through here, who is here now."

New Zealand continued to support UN efforts to investigate human rights violations in Iran, she said.

"These travel bans are not the end of our sanctions. Additional individuals and further measures are under consideration," she said.

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