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Home / Press Release / Permanent Global Magnitsky Act Will Ensure Perpetrators Face Consequences
April 12, 2022

Permanent Global Magnitsky Act Will Ensure Perpetrators Face Consequences

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a yearlong advocacy campaign by Human Rights First and Freedom House, the organizations welcomed the permanent reauthorization of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, signed into law by President Biden on Friday.

“Global Magnitsky sanctions are a major innovation that helps ensure perpetrators of the worst abuses face real consequences,” said Adam Keith, Director for Accountability at Human Rights First. “Congress and the Biden administration have affirmed that the United States must support accountability for human rights abuses no matter where they occur. We appreciate the leadership of Representative Jim McGovern, Senator Ben Cardin, and Senator Roger Wicker in working to permanently reauthorize this law.”

First enacted in 2016, the Global Magnitsky Act spurred the U.S. government for the first time to create a targeted sanctions program to help hold accountable hundreds of human rights abusers and corrupt actors around the world. The landmark law sparked global momentum to adopt similar targeted sanctions programs in Canada, the U.K., the E.U., and Australia.

“As the world is witnessing the Kremlin’s appalling abuses, the permanent and bipartisan reauthorization of the Global Magnitsky Act strengthens the U.S. government’s ability to respond to the horrors unfolding in Ukraine and elsewhere,” said Annie Boyajian, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy at Freedom House. “We look forward to working with Congress to continue strengthening this law in a bipartisan fashion.”

Named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer killed in 2009 after exposing widespread fraud by the Russian government, the Global Magnitsky Act and sanctions program allow the U.S. government to designate foreign individuals and entities involved in corruption serious human rights abuse. That action freezes their U.S.-based assets, denies or revokes their U.S. visa, and blocks U.S. banks, businesses, and individuals from transacting with them.

Since 2017, the Global Magnitsky Act has been implemented by Executive Order 13818, which extended the sanctions program to cover a broader range of serious human rights abuses and perpetrators involved in those abuses, including many that would not have been sanctionable under the standards of the statute. Through this EO, 420 human rights abusers and corrupt actors have been sanctioned across 43 countries, including:

  • 19 Saudi Arabians for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi;
  • Dan Gertler and his associates for corrupt mining deals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • Dozens of leaders and government entities in China and Myanmar are involved in perpetrating abuses against ethnic and religious minorities; and
  • Chechens are involved in torturing and killing LGBTQI persons.

“Global Magnitsky sanctions send a powerful message of solidarity with victims and help address accountability gaps,” said Amanda Strayer, Associate Attorney for Accountability at Human Rights First. “As prospects for justice remain dim for even heinous crimes like Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, Global Magnitsky sanctions provide recognition to victims and bring repercussions on perpetrators. The U.S. government should now use this tool to address often-overlooked abuses, including those perpetrated against marginalized and vulnerable victims and committed in partner and adversary countries alike.”   

The law explicitly directs the U.S. government to consider recommendations on sanctions targets from civil society organizations. Approximately one-third of all sanctions under the Global Magnitsky program have a basis in recommendations from civil society organizations in the coalition that Human Rights First coordinates.