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Home / Press Release / Tillerson, Mnuchin Urged to Use Sanctions Under Global Magnitsky Act
March 05, 2018

Tillerson, Mnuchin Urged to Use Sanctions Under Global Magnitsky Act

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to robustly implement sanctions in 2018 under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The call came in a letter, organized by Human Rights First, from 29 human rights and anti-corruption non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The organizations participating in today’s letter welcomed the administration's 52 sanctions designations under the Act in 2017 and its issuance of Executive Order 13818. Both of these actions strengthen the U.S. government’s ability to hold human rights abusers and corrupt actors accountable for their actions. The letter also: expressed disappointment that the administration’s designations weren't made in key regions and countries, such as the Middle East; urged the administration to produce designations that address key countries and areas of concern; and noted that NGOs will provide information to assist the administration in issuing additional sanctions designations moving forward.

“[W]e were disappointed to see that sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act were not imposed against human rights abusers and corrupt actors in many countries and regions of the world in which such crimes have been well documented,” wrote the groups. “As your departments move forward in implementing Global Magnitsky sanctions in 2018, we urge you to avoid selective application of this powerful tool, as the impacts of human rights abuses and corruption referenced in EO 13818 are no less destructive and destabilizing in countries friendly to the United States than in those that are not.”

Since the Global Magnitsky Act’s enactment, Human Rights First has coordinated the efforts of dozens of NGOs to advocate for its implementation, and has led efforts to assist the U.S. government in assembling viable case files on potential sanctions designees.

“[W]e applaud your respective staffs for their demonstrated commitment to institutionalizing the use of a new, complex, and important diplomatic tool in its first year of existence, and for your departments’ meaningful outreach to civil society,” added the groups in closing. “In 2018, we will continue to assemble and turn over to the U.S. government information documenting human rights abuses and corrupt acts, while advocating for sanctions against the perpetrators of these crimes wherever they reside.”

The Global Magnitsky Act is the most comprehensive human rights and anti-corruption sanctions tool in U.S. history. Under the act, the U.S. government may sanction foreign individuals and entities found to have committed gross violations of human rights or to have engaged in significant acts of corruption by subjecting designees to asset freezes and visa restrictions. On December 21, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13818, entitled  “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption.” The order expands the scope of who may be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act, giving the U.S. government the power to sanction any foreign person found to be responsible for or complicit in serious human rights abuses and acts of corruption.

For more information, or to speak with Rob Berschinski, coordinator of today’s letter, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.