|Clinton said that despite Iran's claims of protecting human rights, the situation has worsened after the elections [AFP]
The United States has increased pressure against Iran's government imposing financial and travel sanctions on eight officials, accusing them of involvement in rampant human rights abuses.
Under an executive order signed this week by Barack Obama, the US president, the State and Treasury departments jointly announced the sanctions on Wednesday that target Iranians who "share responsibility for the sustained and severe violation of human rights in Iran," particularly after last year's disputed presidential elections.
Among the eight Iranians targeted is Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards, and one of his top deputies, Hossein Taeb.
Jafari is already subject to US sanctions related to the country's nuclear programme.
The US government says that forces under the command of Jafari and Taeb participated in beatings, murder and arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters in the aftermath of the June 2009 Iranian election.
Also named were Heydar Moslehi, the intelligence minister, four current and former police chiefs and prosecutors, and Sadeq Mahsouli, currently the minister of welfare and social security.
Mahsouli was minister of the interior at the time of the June 2009 election, and in that role had authority over all police forces and Interior Ministry security agents.
"His forces were responsible for attacks on the dormitories of Tehran University on June 15, 2009, during which students were severely beaten and detained," a joint statement said.
At a State Department news conference, secretary of state Hillary Clinton said it was the first time the US has imposed sanctions on Iranians for violating human rights.
The step adds another layer to already heavy sanctions on Iran, which in the past have been imposed over the country's nuclear programme.
"On these officials' watch or under their command, Iranian citizens have been arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed and killed," Clinton said.
"Yet the Iranian government has ignored repeated calls from the international community to end these abuses."
Clinton added that despite claims by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, that human rights were respected and protected in Iran, the situation has worsened since the elections.
She noted that this week alone, two reformist political parties and two newspapers were shut down.
"The steady deterioration in human rights conditions in Iran has obliged the United States to speak out time and time again," she said.