(Washington, DC) – The US government should use its authority under the Global Magnitsky Act to impose financial sanctions and visa bans on foreign human rights abusers and those responsible for corrupt practices, Human Rights Watch and 22 other organizations said today.

In a letter on September 12, 2017, to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the organizations provided detailed information about 15 individuals from around the world who should be considered for sanctions under the law, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

“The Global Magnitsky Act is a powerful tool that allows the US to hold human rights abusers to account when their own governments fail to do so,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “Would-be rights violators and kleptocrats around the world should now think twice before committing serious abuses and corruption.”

Would-be rights violators and kleptocrats around the world should now think twice before committing serious abuses and corruption.

Andrea Prasow

Deputy Washington Director

Human Rights Watch also issued a question-and-answer document on the Global Magnitsky Act, which was based on the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that imposed sanctions and visa bans on Russian officials considered responsible for serious human rights violations.

The Global Magnitsky Act was enacted on December 23, 2016, and allows the US to impose financial and property sanctions, or block or revoke visas, for foreign individuals or entities responsible for gross human rights violations. It permits similar action against those responsible for significant acts of corruption. The cases proposed by Human Rights Watch and the other organizations include foreign officials implicated in murder, torture, sexual assault, enforced disappearances, extortion, and bribery.

On September 8, President Donald Trump formally delegated authority to the treasury secretary to impose economic sanctions, and to the secretary of state to impose visa bans, paving the way for sanctions to be issued under the act.

“President Trump should act on his apparent willingness to make use of the Global Magnitsky Act to hold abusers abroad to account,” Prasow said. “Visa bans and asset freezes can be a strong deterrent for some officials, especially if other countries adopt similar laws.”