U.S. Congress passed Global Magnitsky Act Sanctions. It may target Azeri officials

The U.S. Congress on Thursday backed a historic legislation that broadens executive authority to sanction corrupt officials across the world who misappropriate state assets as well as anyone who attacks journalists and human rights defenders.

The Global Magnitsky Act is headed to the president's desk as a rider to the defense authorization bill and is expected to be signed by the end of the year.

Once signed into law, the bill will not only give the administration standing authority to impose sanctions on human rights abusers, but also will enhance congressional involvement in the designation of individuals to be investigated for such violations.

Authored by Senator Ben Cardin (with the House version sponsored by Congressman Chris Smith) the bill is modeled after the Magnitsky Act, a law passed by Congress in 2012 that punishes Russians deemed by Washington to be rights violators with visa bans and asset freezes.

The Senate had passed a stand-alone version of the amendment last year but its fate in the House of Representatives was uncertain. Therefore its backers attached it to the National Defense Authorization Act as a backup, according to a congressional official familiar with the procedure.

The law is despised by authoritarian governments including Russia, Azerbaijan, and an extensive lobbying campaign tried to derail it throughout the year.

The lobbying effort was also echoed on the Hill -- several prominent lawmakers, including Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who's now talking himself up for President-elect Donald Trump's potential secretary of State, had reportedly help spike the bill from the Congress' agenda.

However, speaking to TURAN's Washington corresponding on Wednesday, December 7th, Congressman Rohrabacher said, he was "in fact, a supporter of the bill in principle."

"I just don't believe in naming [the bill] Magnistky act, because that makes it one case, which may or may not be true... "

Asked whether he would support implementing the bill specific for Azerbaijan's rights abusers, the congressman said, "if indeed any specific official is found to be guilty of human rights abuse - whether they are from Azerbaijan or anywhere else - they should be punished."

Extending the Magnitsky Act to other nations besides Russia reinforces US’s commitment to individual freedom and the right to dissent, according to Congressman Jim McGovern, the authors of the bill.

Speaking at a briefing on recognition of the human rights day organized by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, the congressman said on Thursday, Dec 8, that it's time for both the US and its allies, as well as the rest of international society, to stand up for global human rights and focus on what they can do better - "because although we win some battles, i fear that we can still lose the war."

For McGovern, human rights abusers all over the world should be worried that people are demanding they’d be held into account. "They can't come here. They can't hide their money in our banks," he told TURAN.

The Global Magnitsky bill, he said, is the indication that the U.S. and hopefully other countries around the world are making human rights a more central part of their foreign policy.


Washington, D.C.

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