New sanctions target corrupt actors, rights abusers

President Trump announced new sanctions that will make it harder for human rights abusers and corrupt officials around the world to travel to the U.S. and use their money located in the United States. This new step, taken on December 21, demonstrates the U.S. commitment to promoting human rights and combating corruption.

Altogether, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned nearly 50 individuals, businesses and organizations for serious human rights abuse or corruption, or for supporting the 13 persons who are named in the president’s announcement.

“The Department is committed to protecting and promoting human rights and combatting corruption with all of the tools at our disposal.”  — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

The announcement expands the range of human rights abusers and corrupt actors who can be publicly named and shamed.

These are the first sanctions issued related to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016. The president’s announcement implementing this law keeps individuals and entities from using the U.S. financial system or engaging in business with U.S. citizens, and it allows for the denial or revocation of the visas of those determined to be responsible for serious human rights abuses or corruption.

The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016 is different from a 2012 law called the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which targets Russians involved in the case of Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer, was arrested after uncovering a large-scale tax fraud scheme involving government officials. He died in prison in 2009. (The Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act bars from the U.S. the Russian officials involved in the fraud and those responsible for Magnitsky’s abuse and death. It also targets those who commit certain other gross violations of human rights in Russia.)

Among those sanctioned:

Yahya Jammeh, The Gambia, former Gambian president, for corrupt schemes to plunder state coffers and for utilizing “a terror and assassination squad.”

Roberto Jose Rivas Reyes, Nicaragua, for using his position of president of Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council to fraudulently undermine Nicaragua’s electoral process.

Dan Gertler, Democratic Republic of the Congo, international businessman who amassed his fortune through corrupt mining and oil deals, for using his close friendship with the country’s president.

Benjamin Bol Mel, South Sudan, for using his role as a financial adviser to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to funnel money on Kiir’s behalf.

Mukhtar Hamid Shah, Pakistan, a surgeon, for his involvement in kidnapping, detaining and removing kidneys from Pakistani laborers.