- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2017

President Trump announced sanctions Thursday against 13 individuals for humans-rights violations and corruption, including a Myanmar general accused of ethnic cleansing against Muslim minorities.

Mr. Trump signed an executive order announcing the new sanctions, which also target 39 entities and individuals under the Global Magnitsky Act. The president declared a national emergency on global corruption and human rights abuses.

Gen. Maung Maung Soe is accused of directing military operations against the Rohingya in Myanmar, a systematic campaign that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has called an example of ethnic cleansing.

“The department is committed to protecting and promoting human rights and combatting corruption with all of the tools at our disposal,” Mr. Tillerson said of the new sanctions. “Today’s actions advance our values and promote the security of the United States, our allies, and our partners.”

The sanctions are the first to be issued since the Obama administration expanded the Magnitsky Act in 2016. The action will freeze the assets of the targeted people and restrict their access to the global financial system.

“We have sought to target those who will send a strong message to the international community and that the United States takes seriously our role in promoting international norms,” said a senior administration official. “We continue to use this tool without hesitation to target the most egregious actors in every corner of the globe and look to today’s actions to set the standard for the future.”

Among other individuals sanctioned are Sergey Kusiuk, former head of an elite police force in Ukraine, and Yahya Jammeh, the former president of Gambia. Artem Chayka, the son of Russia’s prosecutor general, is also being sanctioned; as is Slobodan Tesic, a Serbian arms dealer; and Benjamin Bol Mel, a top financial adviser to the president of South Sudan.

“Treasury is freezing their assets and publicly denouncing the egregious acts they’ve committed, sending a message that there is a steep price to pay for their misdeeds,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “At the direction of President Trump, Treasury and our interagency partners will continue to take decisive and impactful actions to hold accountable those who abuse human rights, perpetrate corruption, and undermine American ideals.”

The Treasury Department also imposed sanctions Wednesday against five Russian and Chechen individuals under the Magnitsky Act, including Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is considered a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was designated for extrajudicial killings and other human-rights violations.

Three of those five people played a significant role in a multi-million-dollar tax fraud scheme uncovered by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 and died in a Moscow jail.

The Kremlin has sought to have the Magnitsky Act reversed. In 2016, Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump officials attended a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin in which Ms. Veselnitskaya has said one of her goals was to lobby Trump officials against the law.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, applauded the administration’s decision to sanction the five Russians and Chechens under the law.

“Corruption and human rights abuses have become rampant in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and the Magnitsky Act serves as important tool in holding Putin and his cronies accountable,” Mr. McCain said. “I hope that these sanctions will provide the Russian people with a small measure of justice that they are denied under the Putin regime, and bolster the efforts of those who carry on the fight for freedom in Russia and around the world.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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