United States Announces Targeted Sanctions; Human Rights First Calls on Other Nations to Act

Human Rights First’s coalition drove almost half of Global Magnitsky designations on corruption and human rights abuses

WASHINGTON – In connection with its Summit for Democracy, the United States government last Friday concluded a week of action on targeted human rights and anti-corruption sanctions.  Human Rights First welcomes the significant number of sanctions that the U.S. government announced, and the extent to which those sanctions reflect recommendations from civil society activists and cover a growing range of situations.

“Many of the sanctions the U.S. government imposed last week reflect the courageous work and insightful advocacy of activists who have pursued targeted sanctions as a means to change the narrative of impunity,” said Scott Johnston, Human Rights First’s Staff Attorney for Human Rights Accountability. “The sanctions also show that the U.S. government can and should use these tools to seek accountability for acts committed by its partners as well as its adversaries.”

Key facts about the sanctions include:

  • Under multiple U.S. sanctions authorities, the U.S. government last week imposed 151 total targeted sanctions: 55 for human rights abusers and 96 for acts of corruption, a significant increase over the designations during the same end-of-year period in 2020 or 2019.
  • Under both the Global Magnitsky and 7031(c) programs, 42% of all designations have a basis in recommendations submitted by members of the targeted human rights and anti-corruption sanctions coalition that Human Rights First coordinates (33 out of 78 under Global Magnitsky and 17 out of 40 under 7031(c).
  • These sanctions address abuse and corruption in countries with which the U.S. government has hostile relations (e.g., Burma, Iran, and Syria), but also some with which it has a closer partnership (e.g., Angola, Bangladesh, and Uganda).

“We are absolutely thrilled [with these sanctions], and this will not only be a huge morale boost to everyday people here, but it shows those in power that they cannot abuse their positions without there being consequences,” said Florindo Chivucute, executive director of Friends of Angola and a member of Human Rights First’s targeted sanctions coalition. “In the future, others will see [these sanctions] and be less likely to perpetrate similar crimes, and civil society will feel more empowered to oppose them if they do.”

Human Rights First expressed disappointment that other governments with similar sanctions programs have been less responsive to calls from civil society. Canada and the United Kingdom last week joined the United States in sanctioning more abusive actors in Burma, for example, but not bad actors in other nations.

“The strong partnership that continues to develop between civil society and the U.S. government on these targeted sanctions programs should serve as a model for Canada, the EU and the UK to follow, as well as Australia as it develops its new sanctions program,” Johnston said.


Published on December 13, 2021


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