U.S. Sanctions on President Raisi

The United States sanctioned Ebrahim Raisi in November 2019, citing his complicity in human rights violations over three decades. The Treasury Department noted Raisi’s role in the so-called “death commission” that ordered the extrajudicial executions of between 4,000 and 5,000 political prisoners in 1988.

President-elect Ebrahim Raisi

“Thousands of political dissidents were systematically subjected to enforced disappearance in Iranian detention facilities across the country and extrajudicially executed pursuant to an order issued by the Supreme Leader of Iran and implemented across prisons in the country,” according to an Amnesty International report. “Many of those killed during this time were subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the process.” Raisi was reportedly one of the four members of the commission.

The hardline cleric was also involved in the brutal crackdown on the Green Movement protests following the disputed 2009 presidential election. “As the first deputy of the judiciary, he championed a campaign including the arrest, torture and execution of protestors,” Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, explained.

The legal authority to sanction Raisi was covered by President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13876, which targeted anyone appointed to a government position by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Raisi had been appointed by Khamenei to head the judiciary in March 2019, eight months before the designation.

When Raisi was sworn in as Iran’s eighth president in August 2021, he became the first president to have been sanctioned before taking office. The following are excerpts from the Treasury Department’s statement on the 2019 sanctions. 


Treasury Designates Supreme Leader of Iran’s Inner Circle Responsible for Advancing Regime’s Domestic and Foreign Oppression

Nov. 14, 2019: “The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action today against Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff and nine individuals who are appointees of, or have acted for or on behalf of, Ali Khamenei, the Iranian regime’s unelected Supreme Leader whose office is responsible for advancing Iran’s radical agenda. This action seeks to block funds from flowing to a shadow network of Ali Khamenei’s military and foreign affairs advisors who have for decades oppressed the Iranian people, exported terrorism, and advanced destabilizing policies around the world. Specifically, the action targets Ali Khamenei’s appointees in the Office of the Supreme Leader, the Expediency Council, the Armed Forces General Staff, and the Judiciary. Treasury’s action coincides with the 40th anniversary of Iranian militants seizing the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding more than 50 Americans hostage for 444 days.”

“Today, OFAC designated Ebrahim Raisi, the head of Iran’s Judiciary, who was appointed by the Supreme Leader in March 2019…. According to a United Nations report, Iran’s Judiciary sanctioned the execution of seven child offenders last year, and two so far in 2019, despite human rights law prohibitions against the death penalty for anyone under age 18. There are at least 90 child offenders currently on death row in Iran. In addition, between September 2018 and July 2019, at least eight prominent lawyers were arrested for defending political prisoners and human rights defenders, many of whom have received lengthy sentences by Iran’s Judiciary.

“Prior to Raisi’s appointment as head of the Judiciary, he served as prosecutor general of Tehran between 1989 and 1994, first deputy head of the judiciary from 2004 to 2014, and Iran’s prosecutor general from 2014 to 2016. Raisi was involved in the regime’s brutal crackdown on Iran’s Green Movement protests that followed the chaotic and disorderly 2009 election. Previously, as deputy prosecutor general of Tehran, Raisi participated in a so-called ‘death commission’ that ordered the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.”


Photo Credits: Raisi via Tasnim News Agency (CC BY 4.0)