Canada announces sanctions in response to long-standing human rights violations

News release

December 8, 2023 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada

The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that Canada is imposing sanctions against seven individuals under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Regulations for human rights violations.

As we prepare to mark International Human Rights Day, Canada is imposing these sanctions in coordination with the United Kingdom and United States to condemn individuals who are responsible for, or complicit in, various human rights violations related to the LGBTQI+ purge in Chechnya, the torture and killing of Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi in Iran and attacks against pro-democracy supporters and civilians in Myanmar. These sanctioned individuals are directly responsible for a list of crimes that include extrajudicial killings, torture and other gross violations of human rights against activists and defenders who dared to stand up for their rights.

Canada is deeply concerned with these long-standing human rights violations and the impunity enjoyed by the individuals who committed them. By imposing these measures, we are reaffirming our commitment to foster an effective rules-based international order and to join forces with likeminded governments to uphold respect for human rights and democracy.


“Human rights are the foundation of democracy. Canada will continue to work with its international partners to ensure that the voices of human rights defenders are heard and to pursue accountability for those responsible for undermining democracy, supressing media freedom and committing other gross human rights violations.”

- Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Quick facts

  • Canada has imposed four rounds of sanctions under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act against a total of 73 foreign nationals since the law was created in 2017.

  • The Chechen officials targeted by these sanctions are responsible for conducting an LGBTQI+ purge, which includes the kidnapping of suspected homosexuals. They also used arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial killings, and humiliation tactics in an attempt to identify other homosexual men in Chechnya. Since 2017, Chechen security forces have targeted more than 200 individuals for their perceived sexual orientation, which has been condemned regularly by Human Rights Watch, Russian human rights organizations, an OSCE Special Rapporteur, and other human rights organizations. With Russia’s November 30th decision to declare the “international LGBT movement” as an “extremist organization, the crackdown and the severity of persecution is likely to intensify across the Russian Federation.

  • Canada is imposing sanctions against two Iranian officials who were involved in the death of Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi. Kazemi was arrested, arbitrarily detained and brutally tortured in Tehran in June 2003 for taking pictures of family members of students arrested and detained in Evin prison, despite holding a government-issued press card. Shortly after her arrest, she died from injuries sustained during her imprisonment.

  • The Myanmar national targeted by today’s sanctions is Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar armed forces and leader of the military coup d’état which deposed the democratically elected civilian government in February 2021. He has openly committed to eradicating all opponents and those advocating for a peaceful, democratic Myanmar. Under his full command, the Myanmar military regime has ordered the targeting of civilians, clearance operations, mass killings of civilians via airstrikes, and attacks on civilian infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, places of worship, places of refugee and shelter, and civil administration.

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