Report Assesses Impacts of Magnitsky Sanctions

WASHINGTON, D.C. Human Rights First, REDRESS, Open Society Foundations, the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and the Pan American Development Foundation today released a report detailing the impact in several countries that Magnitsky-style sanctions have had on perpetrators of human rights abuses and corruption, on survivors and communities affected by these actions, and on the responses of government and private actors.

“Magnitsky sanctions have proven to be powerful – in some cases, they have deterred human rights abuses and spurred the removal of corrupt officials. They are particularly potent when governments use these sanctions against abusive actors in countries where they have strong ties,” said Adam Keith, Director of Accountability at Human Rights First. “The U.S. and other governments must use these tools without fear or favor to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses and corruption accountable.”

Evaluating Targeted Sanctions: A Flexible Framework for Impact Analysis” discusses the impact of U.S., U.K., E.U., and Canadian Magnitsky sanctions targeting individuals in Bangladesh, Belarus, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Paraguay, and Ukraine.

As part of the report’s launch, human rights experts from the U.K., U.S., and E.U. will hold a virtual discussion on the impacts of Magnitsky sanctions and how governments can improve their use to advance human rights and address corruption around the world. The event will be held at 10am EST on November 20.

In the report, Human Rights First assesses the impact of U.S. targeted sanctions for human rights abuses in Bangladesh and, in a section co-written with the Pan American Development Foundation, corruption in Paraguay.

Sanctions were imposed in December 2021 against the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Bangladesh and six of its current or former leaders. The “wildly popular” sanctions led to an abrupt but temporary suspension of “crossfire killings” by the RAB. Human rights groups claim the sanctions have saved lives and deterred the RAB from repeating their previous election cycle’s campaign of extrajudicial killings ahead of the 2024 election. With repression against opposition members rising, the report urges other Magnitsky jurisdictions to join the United States in imposing sanctions on the RAB.

There were significant private and political impacts from U.S. sanctions in 2022 and 2023 against current and former senior Paraguayan officials and associated companies allegedly involved in corruption. Sanctions led one candidate to withdraw from the 2023 Paraguayan presidential race, caused business partners to distance themselves from a former president, and pressured the newly elected president to pursue reform. The report urges sanctioning governments to continue to focus on corruption in Paraguay and provide greater transparency about the evidence supporting the sanctions.

The report’s release coincides with the anniversary of the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax attorney who uncovered a major corruption scheme and was subsequently killed in prison. Human Rights First and partners additionally honor his legacy in a “Magnitsky Month” each November, when we focus on advocacy for the improved use of the sanctions programs that bear his name.

The report’s authors coordinate a coalition of over 330 civil society organizations around the world that advocate targeted human rights anti-corruption sanctions. Since 2017, the coalition has provided more than 170 sanctions recommendations to the U.S., UK, EU, and Canadian governments.


Published on November 16, 2023


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