National Security

U.S. Sanctions Top Burmese General, 51 Others for Human Rights Abuses

Sanctions target individuals in Burma, Russia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Nicuragua

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin / Getty Images

The Trump administration has leveled sanctions on 52 individuals from Burma, Russia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Nicaragua, and elsewhere under a new law designed to punish serious human rights abusers and corruption.

Trump issued the executive order Thursday imposing the sanctions and declared "a national emergency with respect to serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world."

The list includes a former Burmese Army commander who oversaw military operations in the Rakhine State responsible for widespread human rights abuses against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority ethnic group in the country.

The sanctions also target Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of the late longtime Uzbek president Islam Karimov, who headed a powerful organized crime syndicate, and Artem Chayka, the son of Russian official Yury Chayka. Artem Chayka is accused of using his father's position and power to unfairly award state-owned assets and contracts.

The list includes Sergei Kusiuk, commander of an elite Ukrainian special police force, who is accused of leading an attack on peaceful protesters in 2013 and then ordering the destruction of papers documenting the events.

The administration imposed the sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which Congress passed last year. The law expanded the power of the original Magnitsky act, which only targets Russian individuals for the same type of alleged abuses.

Treasury announced on Wednesday new sanctions on five Russian individuals under the Magnitsky act, including Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechnya region. The U.S. government accused Kadyrov of torture and "extra-judicial" killings.

"Today, the United States is taking a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally by shutting these bad actors out of the U.S. financial system," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

The Treasury Department froze the individuals' assets and publicly denounced "the egregious acts they've committed, sending a message that there is a steep price to pay for their misdeeds," Mnuchin added.

U.S. citizens and residents also are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with the sanctioned individuals.

The list includes Roberto Jose Rivas Reyes, the president of Nicaragua's electoral council, which is responsible for organizing elections in the country, for engaging in electoral fraud, and amassing a fortune—including multiple properties, jets, luxury vehicles, and a yacht—while receiving a modest government salary.

A bipartisan coalition of members of Congress, late last month, called on Trump to impose the sanctions on Reyes, as well as another Nicaraguan official, for a wide variety of "well-documented" human-rights abuses, corruption, and illicit activity in support of President Daniel Ortega's regime.

The new sanctions also target Mukhtar Hamid Shah, a Pakistani surgeon specializing in kidney transplants who Pakistani police believe is involved in the trafficking of human organs.

Dan Gertler, an international businessman and billionaire accused of hundreds of millions of dollars in corrupt mining deals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also made the list, along with Yahya Jammeh, the former president of the Gambia who stepped down earlier this year, for a long history of engaging in human rights abuses and corruption, including creating and supporting the Junglers, a terror and assassination squad that answered directly to him.

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who was instrumental in exposing corruption at the Kremlin. Congress passed the original Magnitsky Act in 2012 to blacklist several officials linked to his murder.

Russian officials have decried the law and barred U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children in response.