US President Barack Obama [official website] on Monday issued an executive order [text] that will allow the US to impose sanctions on foreign nationals who have used technology to participate in violation of human rights. Obama signed the order after he indicated that Iran and Syria's governments have committed various abuses against human rights with the help of technology, including computer monitoring and network disruption. Under the order, any person found to have used technology to carry out a human rights abuse is not permitted to enter the US. While the order is aimed at agencies aiding the Syrian and Iranian governments in controlling its citizens through monitoring and surveillance, the administration has indicated that future executive orders [WP report] targeting other countries are possible.
Syria and Iran have both been facing global criticism for their human rights records. Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned [JURIST report] recent attacks by troops loyal to the Syrian government against innocent civilians. In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published an open letter to leaders of a movement opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, alleging that members of the opposition movement have tortured [JURIST report], kidnapped and executed supporters of the Assad government. Also in March, a UN human rights expert criticized the Iranian government for human rights violations. In February, Obama signed [JURIST report] an executive order [text] imposing strict sanctions on Iran as part of an effort to enforce a bill he signed into law in December 2011.