New Bill Would Prevent Sanctions Against Institutions Promoting Accountability

WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Joaquin Castro and Rep. James McGovern introduced the Multilateral Leadership Act to ensure that targeted U.S. sanctions are not misused against institutions that help combat impunity for human rights abuse around the world. Human Rights First urges Congress to pass and the Biden administration to support this important bill.

“Through the Global Magnitsky program and others like it, the United States has become a world leader in using sanctions tools to promote accountability for serious human rights abuses and corruption,” said Adam Keith, Director for Accountability at Human Rights First. “But the shameful and dangerous precedent of the previous administration’s sanctions on the International Criminal Court (ICC) makes clear that Congress must provide additional checks against the abuse of the broader sanctions toolkit.”

“By putting in place a modest guardrail against such abuse, Representatives Castro and McGovern’s bill would strengthen the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions programs and make the United States a more credible advocate for justice,” Keith added.

The Act would amend the primary U.S. sanctions statute, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) so that the U.S. government could not impose economic sanctions on international organizations affiliated with the United Nations system. Officials of those institutions could not be sanctioned for acts taken in their official capacity.

In an unprecedented action, the Trump administration in 2020 imposed sanctions on two top officials at the ICC, prompting widespread condemnation and legal challenges from civil society organizations appalled by this attack on the rule of law.  The Biden administration lifted those sanctions and has taken modest steps toward supporting the ICC’s work, including participating in the conference the Dutch government and the ICC convened today to promote accountability for war crimes in Ukraine.

Human Rights First is proud to coordinate and partner with a coalition of more than 300 civil society organizations that advocate for targeted sanctions against the perpetrators of human rights abuse and corruption.


Published on July 14, 2022


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