When the international community seeks to respond to the abuse of human rights by a government, group or individual, sanctions can be an effective tool in constraining unacceptable activities or forcing a change in behaviour. Sanctions often involve restrictions on international trade. These may include a ban on the sale of certain goods and equipment to a country, or prohibitions on doing business with certain individuals, organisations and companies.
International sanctions are usually agreed at a senior level in the UN or the EU, either at the UN Security Council or in the Council of the European Union. As the UK representative at these negotiations, the FCO consults other government departments to ensure that restrictions are targeted, effective and proportionate, and that any commercial or economic impacts on the UK are considered and minimised.
In March, EU member states agreed an amendment to the EU Iran sanctions regime in response to the human rights situation in the country. The amendment introduced an embargo on technology that could be used by the Iranian regime to monitor Internet, telephone or mobile communications.