US Envoy Contrasts Biden’s Criticism of Iran’s Poor Human Rights Record with Trump Approach
America's Voice Admin
March 19, 2021
The Biden administration is contrasting its criticisms of Iran’s poor human rights record from those made by former President Donald Trump, with a senior official saying the U.S. is trying to make its Iran critiques more credible by stressing a need to also solve rights problems at home.
“President Joe Biden has made clear ... that human rights are going to be a priority in Iran and in the region as a whole,” said U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley in a Wednesday interview with VOA Persian at the State Department. “And I think we have restored a more principled approach in which we push for the respect of human rights throughout the world, including, by the way, in the United States.”
Prior to Malley’s interview, the Biden administration had issued eight public statements about Iran’s human rights record since taking office on Jan. 20, with the toughest being a March 9 announcement of sanctions against two interrogators of Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for allegedly violating the rights of anti-government protesters in 2019 and 2020.
The Trump administration had frequently been vocal about Iran’s poor rights record during its four-year term and sanctioned multiple Iranian government-linked individuals and entities for alleged human rights abuses.
In an echo of Trump’s approach, Malley told VOA the Biden administration has tried to “shine a spotlight on Iran [and] the struggle of courageous activists” such as jailed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. A U.S. official in Geneva had mentioned Sotoudeh in a March 9 statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council urging Iran to end its "systematic use of an arbitrary and unfair justice system to detain and impose sentences against human rights defenders.”
In another message similar to that of the Trump administration, Malley said U.S. officials were putting a “huge emphasis” on trying to bring home Iranian American dual citizens seen as unjustly detained in or prevented from leaving Iran. He named businessman Siamak Namazi, who was arrested in October 2015; Siamak's father and former U.N. official Baquer Namazi, who was detained in February 2016 and has been on a medical furlough from prison since 2018; and environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, who was arrested in January 2018.
Malley said the U.S. also will continue to seek the return of the remains of retired FBI agent Robert “Bob” Levinson, who disappeared in Iran after being abducted in 2007 and later died in captivity according to U.S. intelligence assessments.
“It is unconscionable that ... the Iranian government would use the lives of individuals as pawns in a political game to try to extract benefit,” Malley said. “This is not something [where] you sign an agreement and that's enough. What you need to do is push and make sure that there's pressure, and make sure that the Iranian people themselves know that the United States is standing with them in that fight.”