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Home / Press Release / Human Rights First Welcomes Launch of Congressional Counter-Kleptocracy Caucus
June 10, 2021

Human Rights First Welcomes Launch of Congressional Counter-Kleptocracy Caucus

WASHINGTON – Human Rights First welcomes today’s launch of the Congressional Caucus against Foreign Corruption and Kleptocracy, a bipartisan effort to curb global corruption that undermines democracy, the rule of law, and protections for human rights. The launch follows last week’s announcement from the Biden administration that it is establishing the fight against corruption as “a core United States national security interest” and called for greater accountability for perpetrators.

“Initiating this caucus shows Congress’ renewed focus on tackling corruption, and our next steps must be to strengthen and reauthorize the Global Magnitsky Act, a critical tool that targets corrupt foreign actors to close the door to illicit finance and corrupt networks,” said Mike Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First. “As more countries adopt similar Global Magnitsky sanctions measures, reauthorizing the Magnitsky Act will reaffirm U.S. leadership in fighting corruption and the nation’s commitment to effective multilateral cooperation.”

In a landmark action last week that demonstrated the importance of U.S. leadership, the U.S. Treasury Department announced Global Magnitsky sanctions against three Bulgarian individuals and 64 companies for corruption – the most significant action taken on a single day under the program. Since then, Bulgarian Prime Minister Stefan Yanev publicly acknowledged corruption in Bulgaria as a barrier to “a stable political system [and] a prosperous economy” and called for an array of anti-corruption reforms. The government also announced it is investigating and cutting ties with businesses and individuals associated with those sanctioned.

“Targeted sanctions under the U.S. Global Magnitsky program are most impactful when they are responsive to the concerns of civil society and encourage other countries to take action to address abuses and hold the perpetrators accountable,” said Scott Johnston, Staff Attorney for Human Rights Accountability. “Congress should take note of how last week’s sanctions bolstered civil society demands for accountability for a key U.S. partner. We look forward to working with the new Caucus in supporting the effective use of this critical foreign policy tool in defending democracy and good government.”

In addition to strengthening the Global Magnitsky Act, Human Rights First is endorsing the Justice for Victims of Kleptocracy Act, introduced yesterday by Counter-Kleptocracy Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) and Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah).

The Act would provide an account of U.S. actions to seize corrupt funds by directing the Department of Justice to publicly report on a country-by-country basis the number of assets it has recovered that were stolen through foreign corruption and encouraging the return of these assets for the benefit of those harmed by these abuses. The procedures in the Magnitsky Act would provide critical transparency on the amount of public money lost through corruption in foreign countries while exposing the toll on victims living under kleptocratic and authoritarian regimes.

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 about activities and persons that are sanctionable under the Global Magnitsky Act and other U.S. sanctions programs.