Treasury Sanctioning of Group of Persons/Entities
The Treasury Department sanctioned (December 9), for corruption or human rights abuses, over 40 persons and entities spanning nine countries. This action was taken in part to mark both International Anti-Corruption Day and International Human Rights Day.
Among the sanctioned are 3 persons from Guatemala and 2 persons from El Salvador for corruption; the Iranian commander of the country’s law enforcement offices “for being responsible for or complicit in serious human rights abuses in Iran;” North Korea’s Ministry of State Security Border Guard General Bureau (BGGB), because of the use of landmines and shoot-on-sight orders to prevent border crossings; and Apollo Carreon Quiboloy (Quiboloy) of the Phillipines who has engaged in serious human rights abuse through a church he founded, including a pattern of systemic and pervasive rape of girls as young as 11 years old.
Two persons and 157 Chinese-flagged fishing vessels were sanctioned because of labor conditions tied to illegal fishing including "emotional and physical abuse, sometimes resulting in death; excessive overtime; poor living conditions; deceptive or coercive recruiting; and non-payment or underpayment of wages."
Treasury sanctioning means that all property/property interests of designated persons must be reported to Treasury, as well as entities that are owned (directly or indirectly) 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons, and US persons are prohibited from all transactions pertaining to such persons/entities.
UN Rejects Discussion of Uyghur Situation
The United Nations Human Rights Council rejected (October 6) a motion by western nations (e.g., Canada, the United States, Britain) to hold a debate on Uyghur human rights in the wake of an August report.
Among other things, the report found that Uyghurs placed in so-called “Vocational Education and Training Centers (VETCs)” were not, as China claims, free to join or quit VETC programs at any time; that, “it is impossible for an individual detained in such a heavily guarded center to leave of their own free will; and that a stay in a VETC facility is, from the concerned individual’s perspective, of indefinite nature, the end of which is only determined by meeting undefined criteria as evaluated by the authorities.” Ultimately, placement in VETC facilities are not voluntary and persons appear to have no choice in being there, which amounts to a form of “deprivation of liberty.”
More broadly, human rights organizations believe China is undertaking mass forced labor, and potentially genocide, in the Xinjiang region of China against Uyghurs.
The vote tally on the Council’s motion to debate the issue– 19 against, 17 for, 11 abstentions– apparently was just the second time in the 16-year history of the Council that a motion was rejected. Qatar, Indonesia and Pakistan, were among the countries rejecting the motion. China had warned that the motion would create a “dangerous shortcut” for reviewing the human rights records of other countries. Speculation on the primary reason for votes against the motion was fear of losing Chinese investment.
Trafficking in Victims Programs Reauthorization
The House passed the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022 (H.R.6552), legislation which reauthorizes various Federal program activities and funding to address human trafficking and abuse. The vote was 420-20, with nine Members of Congress not voting.
Among other things, the legislation:
Authorizes funding of more than $1.1 billion over five years for programs such as shelters, mental health care, education, life skills and job training.
Reauthorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Angel Watch Center to prevent international sex tourism travel by convicted child sex offenders.
Enhances trafficking prevention education for children by involving parents and law enforcement in age-appropriate programs to assist in the prevention of child trafficking, as well as online grooming.
Authorizes $35 million for housing opportunities to help women escape abusive living situations, and to help prevent the trafficking of graduated foster youth.
As of December 9, there is no indication the Senate will consider this legislation during the current Congress.
Wrongful Detention & Travel Advisory Updates
President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) on “bolstering” efforts to bring hostages and wrongfully detained U.S. nationals home. In tandem with the EO the State Department updated its travel advisory system.
The EO seeks to improve current Federal efforts on wrongful detention in several ways. The EO clarifies and enhances roles and responsibilities of the governmental offices and other entities involved in responding to wrongful detention/hostage situations. Included are improvements in engagement with affected families, such as the sharing of intelligence information regarding detainee status as well as the government’s efforts to secure their release and return. The EO also authorizes the imposition of costs on persons responsible for wrongful detention and hostage situations, including visa bans and financial sanctions.
State Department travel advisories will now include a new risk indicator – the “D” indicator. The indicator is intended to warn U.S. citizens of the risk of wrongful detention by a foreign government. The indicator will be used to highlight the elevated risk of wrongful detention in particular countries that the State Department believes “have regularly engaged in this practice.” This is also intended to show in a transparent way to such governments that the United States is willing to call out such behavior.
Uyghur Forced Labor Law Implementation
The United States began implementing (June 21st) Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFPLA). Goods produced by/imported into the United States from entities on the UFPLA Entity List will be subject to more stringent clearance procedures. In general, goods produced by/imported into the United States will be presumed to be produced by forced Chinese Uyghur labor unless proven otherwise by the required documentation.
Human Rights Country Reports
The State Department issued its annual Country Reports on Human Rights (April 17, 2022) covering 198 countries and territories.
For this edition, State specifically calls out within the report’s Preface:
The “unjustly jailed, tortured, or even..[killing of]...political opponents, activists, human rights defenders, or journalists” in Russia, China, North Korea, Nicaragua, and Syria.
Abuses of peaceful protests in Burma, Belarus, Cuba, Hong Kong, and Sudan.
Transnational repression by Belarus of an international commercial flight for the sole purpose of arresting an independent journalist.
The report also highlights examples of hope including:
In Iraq where citizens cast votes in more credible and transparent parliamentary elections than in 2018.
In Botswana where a court advanced the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons by upholding the decriminalization of same-sex relations.
In Turkmenistan, all imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses conscientious objectors to military service were pardoned.
Myanmar Genocide Determination
The United States announced its determination (March 21, 2022) that members of the Burmese military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement in a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial.
The Secretary outlined the evidence which “points to a clear intent behind these mass atrocities – the intent to destroy Rohingya, in whole or in part…corroborated by the accounts of soldiers who took part in the operation and later defected, such as one who said he was told by his commanding officer to, and I quote, “shoot at every sight of a person,” end quote – burn villages, rape and kill women, orders that he and his unit carried out.”
The Secretary outlined past/current/planned U.S. actions to address the situation such as:
Supporting the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, as it collects, preserves, and analyzes evidence of serious international crimes in Burma.
Sharing information with The Gambia in connection with the case it has filed against Burma under the Genocide Convention at the International Court of Justice for the atrocities committed against Rohingya.
Continuing targeted sanctions on 65 individuals, including top military commanders, senior officials, and family members.
Continuing sanctions or export controls on 26 entities that were either implicated in human rights abuses or generate revenue for the military and its leaders.
Leading efforts at the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution (June 2021) calling on member states to stop the flow of arms into Burma, which 119 countries supported and only one voted against.
Joining 35 nations calling for an end to the provision of all arms, materiel, and technical assistance to the Burmese military.
Supporting ASEAN’s efforts to end the regime’s violence and seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis through its Five-Point Consensus.
Providing support to help meet immediate humanitarian needs of Rohingya and all affected by their persecution – nearly $1.6 billion since 2017.
Human Trafficking National Action Plan
The Biden Administration announced (December 2021) a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. Some of the key planned actions include:
Conducting proactive outreach to key private sector partners to provide information about forced labor in product supply chains and ventures.
Addressing aspects of non-immigrant visa programs that may facilitate exploitation of visa holders.
Developing and implementing human trafficking screening forms and protocols.
Increasing public awareness materials focused on victim identification, to include displaying materials in priority locations within 1 year.
Providing victims protection from removal.
Enhancing capabilities to locate missing children, including children in foster care, and who are vulnerable to human trafficking.
Proposing legislation to facilitate passport revocation and other administrative actions for persons convicted of certain travel related human trafficking and child sexual exploitation crimes.
No Results Found
Same Sex Marriage Decision (Obergefell v. Hodges)
This is the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court finding, in a 5-4 decision, that same-sex marriages are protected by the Constitution.
Status: the decision was issued on June 26, 2015.