Human Rights First Welcomes New U.S. Sanctions Targeting Human Rights Abuses and Corruption

Washington, D.C. – On Friday, the U.S. government enacted sanctions targeting 90 people and entities involved in human rights abuses and corruption across 17 countries.

“Many of the U.S. government’s sanctions aligned with our calls to use Global Magnitsky sanctions to address human trafficking and abuses against certain marginalized victims,” said Adam Keith, Director of Accountability for Human Rights First. “These sanctions can be powerful foreign policy tools, changing the behavior of abusers and sending a message of solidarity to those fighting for accountability.”

Following advocacy by Human Rights First and partner organizations urging the United States to impose Global Magnitsky sanctions against perpetrators of human trafficking, the U.S. government issued several landmark Global Magnitsky actions when for the first time, it sanctioned those involved in forced labor and sex trafficking abuses.

  • In the first Global Magnitsky action against an entity listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, the U.S. government issued sanctions targeting illicit fishing and forced labor on Peoples’ Republic of China-registered distant water fishing vessels. These sanctions, which help illustrate how forced labor abuses impact the U.S. economy, are the largest Global Magnitsky action to date. They target 12 individuals and entities and, for the first time, 157 vessels.
  • Marking the first time that sex trafficking and rape were the central abuses sanctioned under Global Magnitsky, the U.S. government sanctioned Apollo Carreon Quiboloy for sex trafficking, systemic rape, and physical abuse of young girls in the Philippines. Quiboloy has been indicted for sex trafficking-related crimes by U.S. federal prosecutors and is currently on the FBI’s most wanted list.

“We applaud these sanctions designations, as they mark an important step in holding human traffickers accountable and changing behavior,” said Martina E. Vandenberg, president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center. “Impunity for forced labor and sex trafficking remains the norm. These sanctions send a strong message that no entity, individual, or state is above the law. All trafficking victims — whether they are held in forced labor on distant water fishing vessels, trafficked abroad to earn hard currency for their kleptocratic government, or sexually abused by religious leaders engaged in sex trafficking — deserve justice. These abuses are serious human rights abuses that should give rise to sanctions.”

The U.S. government also took significant action to address gaps in recognizing certain marginalized victims and the harm they endure:

  • For the first time, the U.S. government imposed Global Magnitsky sanctions for forced sterilization and coerced abortion, among other abuses, by targeting Chinese official Wu Yingjie in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
  • In half of the Global Magnitsky sanctions announcements for human rights abuses, the U.S. government acknowledged the perpetrators’ abuses’ impact on women and children.

“One of the most glaring gaps in Global Magnitsky sanctions has been the lack of specific attention to abuses of women, children, LGBTQI+ persons, and Indigenous persons.  We hope the U.S. government’s action is the beginning of their effort to address this oversight,” said Amanda Strayer, Supervising Staff Attorney for Accountability at Human Rights First. “More action is needed to address widespread and grave abuses targeting LGBTQI+ persons and Indigenous persons, particularly the staggeringly high rates of killings and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders and members of these groups.”

Human Rights First urges the U.S. government to hold state perpetrators of human rights abuses and corruption in security partner countries accountable through Global Magnitsky sanctions, as highlighted in its recent report, Friends Like These: U.S. Security Partners and Selectivity in the Global Magnitsky Sanctions Program.

While the UK and Canadian governments joined the U.S. in several sanctions announcements, Human Rights First encourages the U.S. and its partners to multilateralize their human rights and corruption sanctions to ensure the greatest potential impact. These and other recommendations were detailed in Human Rights First’s report, Multilateral Magnitsky Sanctions at Five Years.


Published on December 14, 2022


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