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Home / Press Release / Human Rights First Welcomes Introduction of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Reauthorization Act
February 03, 2021

Human Rights First Welcomes Introduction of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Reauthorization Act

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First welcomes introduction in the U.S. Senate of S. 93, the ‘‘Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Reauthorization Act,” which would strengthen and permanently reauthorize the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016.  Introduced by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), the Global Magnitsky Reauthorization Act would significantly bolster the Global Magnitsky sanctions program and improve the ability of the U.S. government to hold accountable many of the world’s worst human rights violators and corrupt actors.

“The Global Magnitsky Act is the most comprehensive targeted human rights and anti-corruption sanctions law in U.S. history, and has become a powerful and effective foreign policy tool with which to hold bad actors accountable,” said Rob Berschinski, Human Rights First’s senior vice president for policy. “Human rights and anti-corruption advocates in the United States and around the world are counting on the U.S. Congress to maintain the Global Magnitsky program. The Cardin-Wicker reauthorization bill is a significant step in the right direction. If enacted, it will significantly enhance the existing Global Magnitsky program so that it can remain a critical tool for delivering justice. We hope to see S. 93 joined by a strong House companion and passed on a bipartisan basis.”

Sen. Cardin’s press release announcing the introduction of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Reauthorization Act can be read here.

The reauthorization bill, which was designed in consultation with Human Rights First and Freedom House, takes several steps to strengthen the existing Global Magnitsky Act in a number of important ways. These include:

  • Extending potential penalties to perpetrators’ immediate family members, so as to preclude them from benefitting from the proceeds of corruption and/or human rights abuse;
  • Broadening the act’s scope to include “serious human rights abuse,” which makes clear the act’s application to non-state actors and other perpetrator classes;
  • Authorizing “status-based” designations (an important change in terms of targeting senior-level officials);
  • Removing the current act’s requirement that actionable violations occur only against limited classes of victims;
  • Broadening the act’s scope for corruption-related offenses;
  • Clarifying that the U.S. government should review credible information provided by anti-corruption NGOs in addition to human rights NGOs;
  • Repealing the act’s sunset clause;
  • Requiring a report to Congress on how each sanctions designation made under the act nests within a broader diplomatic strategy; and
  • Adding the “sense of Congress” that the executive branch should regularize information sharing and sanctions-related decision making with the growing number of governments possessing Magnitsky-like laws.

Since the passage of the Global Magnitsky Act in late 2016, the U.S. government has sanctioned 244 persons from 33 countries under the program it authorizes. Among other instances, Global Magnitsky sanctions have been imposed on Saudi Arabian government officials for their involvement in the killing of dissident Jamal Khashoggi; high-ranking Chinese officials for abuses committed against Uyghurs and other minority populations; Burmese military leaders responsible for mass atrocities against Myanmar’s Rohingya population; and corrupt business-people involved in the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars in Latvia, Cambodia, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In recent years, targeted sanctions programs modeled on the Global Magnitsky Act have been enacted by the governments of Canada, the UK, and the Baltic states, as well as the European Union.     

Since 2017, Human Rights First has organized and trained a global coalition of human rights and anti-corruption NGOs that have worked together to bring credible information to the attention of the U.S. and other governments on potential sanctions designees under the Global Magnitsky Act and other U.S. sanctions programs.