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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

TREASURY DESIGNATES PERPETRATORS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE AND COMMEMORATES THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Date:

WASHINGTON — December 10, 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the landmark document enshrining human rights and fundamental freedoms for all individuals. Ahead of this historic anniversary and Human Rights Day, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) reaffirms its steadfast commitment to promoting respect for human rights and accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuse.

“Our commitment to upholding and defending human rights is sacrosanct,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen. “Abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms—wherever they occur in the world—strike at the heart of our shared humanity and our collective conscience. Treasury’s targeted sanctions announced today and over the past year underscore the seriousness of our commitment to promoting accountability for human rights abuse and safeguarding the U.S. financial system from those who commit these egregious acts.”

Over the past year, including the actions taken today, Treasury has designated more than 150 individuals and entities across a dozen countries for issues relating to human rights abuse. These designations have leveraged numerous sanctions authorities and have targeted a range of activities that violate or abuse human rights and betray the vision laid out in the UDHR. Treasury designations also targeted instances of human rights abuse linked to terrorist organizations, criminal activity, repression of LGBTQI+ persons, transnational repression, and environmental crime and degradation. Treasury will continue to leverage all relevant sanctions authorities to promote respect for human rights and accountability for human rights violations and abuses. These include violations and abuses involving the repression of members of civil society, protesters, and journalists; violence against civilians; arbitrary detention and kidnapping; and gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) which the President has identified as a priority through issuing the Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Accountability for CRSV.

Promoting accountability for conflict-related sexual violence is a top priority for President Biden, who last year signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the U.S. government to strengthen our exercise of financial, diplomatic, and legal tools against this scourge—leading to the first-ever imposition of sanctions resulting from a dedicated focus on conflict-related sexual violence. Today’s sanctions include 13 targets that have been identified for designation by the United States, and several in coordination with allies and partners on the United Nations Security Council, for their role in perpetrating or condoning the perpetration of rape and other forms of sexual violence, further implementing the Presidential Memorandum and underscoring the Administration’s commitment to recognizing this abhorrent abuse and promoting accountability.

Today, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned 20 individuals for their connection to human rights abuse in nine countries. An additional two individuals were sanctioned under the Department of State’s counterterrorism authority. Furthermore, the Department of State likewise designated individuals in Russia, Indonesia, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for visa restrictions pursuant to Section 7031(c) of the Annual Appropriations Act. These actions are taken in concert with measures imposed by partners in the United Kingdom and Canada, which have similarly utilized economic measures to deter human rights abuse globally. We stand with our partners in upholding international ideals.

AFGHANISTAN

Today, OFAC designated Fariduddin Mahmood (Mahmood) and Khalid Hanafi (Hanafi) for serious human rights abuse related to the repression of women and girls, including through the restriction of access to secondary education for women and girls in Afghanistan solely on the basis of gender. This gender-based restriction reflects severe and pervasive discrimination against women and girls and interferes with their enjoyment of equal protection.

Since August 2021, the Taliban has implemented expansive policies of targeted discrimination against women and girls that impede their enjoyment of a wide range of rights, including those related to education, employment, peaceful assembly, and movement, among others. Afghanistan is the only nation in the world where women and girls are prohibited from pursuing secondary education.

Throughout Afghanistan, the Taliban’s policies banning access to education for women and girls have been met with strong opposition from both women and men, including activists advocating for girls’ access to education. The Taliban response to this opposition has been severe, including disrupting protests, beating protesters, banning assemblies, and detaining and assaulting journalists covering the demonstrations.

Mahmood is a member of the Taliban’s so-called “cabinet” that made decisions to close education centers and schools to women and girls after the sixth grade. He serves as the so-called “head of the Afghanistan Academy of Sciences” and supported the education-related bans on women and girls. He is being designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world, for being a foreign person who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse involving the restriction of access to all secondary education for women and girls in Afghanistan solely on the basis of gender, which interferes with their enjoyment of equal protection.

Hanafi serves as the Taliban’s so-called “Minister” for the so-called “Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” (MPVPV). Since August 2021, members of the so-called MPVPV have engaged in serious human rights abuse, including killings, abductions, whippings, and beatings. Members of the so-called MPVPV have assaulted people protesting the restrictions on women’s activity, including access to education. Hanafi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse relating to the leader’s or official’s tenure.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Today, OFAC designated two individuals contributing to ongoing instability in the Central African Republic (CAR). Jean-Francis Bozize (Bozize), a CAR national and son of former CAR President Francois Bozize, has moved weapons and ammunition from neighboring countries into CAR for the Coalition for the Patriots of Change (CPC), a rebel group that has recruited child soldiers and perpetrated sexual violence. Mahamat Salleh (Salleh), a CAR national, is a CPC commander and a former zone commander for the CPC-affiliated group, the Popular Front for the Rebirth of CAR, who has raped girls and forced them into sexual slavery.

Bozize is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13667 for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of CAR. Salleh is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13667 for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence (including killing, maiming, torture, or rape or other sexual violence), abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law in or in relation to CAR.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

Today, OFAC designated three individuals contributing to ongoing instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). William Yakutumba (Yakutumba), a DRC national, is the founder, military commander, and political leader of the Mai-Mai Yakutumba militia and the National Coalition of the People for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNPSC), a coalition of several armed groups in South Kivu province, DRC, that attacked civilians and humanitarian actors. Through his role as leader of the Mai-Mai Yakutumba militia and CNPSC, Yakutumba has been involved in the commission of rape, mass rape, and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Willy Ngoma (Ngoma) is the military spokesperson for the March 23 Movement (M23), an armed group that has perpetrated human rights abuses, including killings, attacks, and sexual violence against civilians. On November 29, 2022, M23 conducted a series of killings in the town of Kisheshe in North Kivu province, DRC, where M23 combatants systematically looted civilian property and raped several women. Michel Rukunda (Rukunda), a DRC national, is the commander and overall military leader of the armed group Twirwaneho. Under Rukunda’s leadership, Twirwaneho has recruited children as young as 12 years of age to guard military positions, carry out patrols, gather intelligence, participate in combat operations, act as personal escorts, or work as domestic aids in military camps. Twirwaneho has conducted attacks against civilians, including at an internally displaced person camp, and has looted and burned several houses and a medical facility.

Yakutumba and Rukunda are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13413 as amended by E.O. 13671, for being leaders of entities, including any armed group, that have, or whose members are responsible for or complicit in, or have engaged in, directly or indirectly, the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence (including killing, maiming, torture, or rape or other sexual violence), abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law, in or in relation to the DRC. Ngoma is being designated for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, M23, an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to E.O. 13413, as amended by E.O. 13671.

Additionally, the Department of State designated two individuals today pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, for their leadership role in ISIS-DRC. ISIS-DRC, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist, committed numerous abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law against women and children, including involving killing, maiming, and sexual violence. Mohamed Ali Nkalubo (Nkalubo), a Ugandan national, is an ISIS-DRC senior advisor and deputy to ISIS-DRC’s overall leader, Musa Baluku. Nkalubo served as a communication conduit to ISIS-Core senior leaders and is responsible for disseminating ISIS propaganda in central Africa. Nkalubo oversees ISIS-DRC attack planning and training and has personally participated in numerous attack operations. Ahmed Mahamud Hassan Aliyani (Hassan Aliyani), a Tanzanian national, is an ISIS-DRC commander. Hassan Aliyani oversees the facilitation of foreign fighters traveling into the DRC to join the group. He has also led attack planning for ISIS-DRC, including the June 16, 2023, attack on the Lhubiriha Secondary School in Uganda and the January 15, 2023, attack on a Pentecostal church in Kasindi, DRC. On December 4, the United States also nominated these individuals for designation at the United Nations (UN) pursuant to resolution 1807 (2008) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

HAITI

Today, OFAC designated Johnson “Izo” André (André), Renel Destina (Destina), Vitel’homme Innocent (Innocent), and Wilson Joseph (Joseph), the leaders of four criminal gangs in Haiti: 5 Segond, Grand Ravine, Kraze Baryé, and 400 Mawozo. André is wanted by the Haitian National Police for assassination, kidnapping for ransom, illegal possession of firearms, hijacking of freight trucks, and criminal conspiracy. André and his gang have been identified by survivors as being directly responsible for 1,035 documented cases of sexual violence in 2022 alone. Destina, who is a key ally of André, has committed kidnappings as well as killings, robberies, rapes, looting and burning of residences, and continuous attacks against Haitian police officers. Destina has also been indicted on charges of hostage taking by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for kidnapping U.S. citizens for ransom in February 2021. Innocent and Joseph have both been indicted by DOJ for their role in the armed kidnapping of U.S. citizens in Haiti in October 2022, and the Department of State issued reward offers of up to $2 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Innocent when he was added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List on November 15, 2023 and up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Joseph in 2022. On December 1, the United States also nominated these four individuals for designation at the UN under Security Council resolution 2653 (2022) concerning Haiti.

According to UN reporting, criminal gangs in Haiti have enhanced their cooperation, resulting in a significant increase in violence and criminal activity. Criminal gangs now reportedly control approximately 80 percent of Port-au-Prince. Kidnapping, rape, robbery, murder and sexual violence are daily threats for Haitians, including children, due to the prevalence of these criminal gangs.

André, Destina, Innocent, and Joseph are each being designated for being a foreign person who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse and for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse relating to the leader’s or official’s tenure in their roles as leaders of criminal gangs in Haiti pursuant to E.O. 13818.

IRAN

Today, OFAC designated Iranian intelligence officers Majid Dastjani Farahani (Farahani)and Mohammad Mahdi Khanpour Ardestani (Ardestani). The Iranian regime continues to aggressively target and stifle opponents and dissenting voices. Domestically, the regime has repeatedly responded to peaceful protests with brutal measures, from the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters to arbitrary detention and torture of detainees, including children. The regime’s efforts to silence its opponents extend far beyond its borders, where Iran has carried out acts of transnational repression, including rendition and lethal plotting against activists, journalists, and foreign government officials.

Both Farahani and Ardestani have recruited individuals for various operations in the United States, to include lethal targeting of current and former U.S. Government officials as revenge for the death of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani. Farahani and Ardestani also recruited individuals for surveillance activities focused on religious sites, businesses, and other facilities in the United States.

Farahani and Ardestani are being designated for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, pursuant to E.O. 13553.

LIBERIA

Today, OFAC designated Jefferson Koijee (Koijee), who is the mayor of Monrovia, Liberia and is a senior leader in the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) political party. Koijee has a reputation for stoking violence and has a powerful grip on Monrovia’s youth. He controls paramilitary-style organizations associated with the CDC which allegedly recruits former combatants and recently released prisoners. OFAC has reason to believe that Koijee has instructed these organizations to violently disrupt demonstrations conducted by government critics or political opposition. Koijee and his supporters have been involved in violence in connection with: an opposition rally in July 2022, students attending a memorial service for former Liberian president Amos Sawyer in March 2022, an anti-rape protest in August 2020, a student graduation ceremony in December 2019, and an opposition rally in November 2018. Koijee has also engaged in corrupt acts, including bribery and misappropriation of state assets for use by private political movements and pressuring anti-corruption investigators to halt corruption investigations.

Koijee is being designated for being a foreign person who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse and for being a foreign person who is a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery pursuant to E.O. 13818.

PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

Today, OFAC sanctioned two PRC government officials for their connection to ongoing serious human rights abuse in Xinjiang. Treasury is taking this action in conjunction with the Department of State’s (State) issuance of the “Report to Congress on the Imposition of Sanctions Pursuant to Section 6(a) of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (UHRPA) of 2020, P.L. 116-145.” Gao Qi (Gao)is being sanctioned as required under UHRPA, as amended by the Act of December 23, 2021 (Pub. L. 117-78) and designated pursuant to E.O. 13818. Hu Lianhe (Hu) is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 in support of UHRPA objectives.

Gao has served as the leader of the Yili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture (Yili Prefecture) Public Security Bureau, an organization subordinate to the previously designated Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB), and as Yili Prefecture’s vice governor. Gao stated in June 2018 that Xinjiang must “resolutely follow the demand of Party Secretary Chen to place the untrustworthy in a trustworthy place … to slowly transform them.” Since then, public security officials in Yili Prefecture have engaged in a range of serious human rights abuses.

Gaois identified in the aforementioned State UHRPA report as a foreign person, including any official of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, who is responsible for any of the following with respect to Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, members of other Muslim minority groups, or other persons in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: torture; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; prolonged detention without charges and trial; causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons; other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons; or serious human rights abuses in connection with forced labor. Accordingly, Gao is being sanctioned as required under UHRPA, as amended. He is also being designated under E.O. 13818 for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB), an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse relating to his tenure. OFAC designated the XPSB on July 9, 2020,for being a foreign person responsible for, or complicit in, or that has directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse. The Department of State is concurrently announcing visa restrictions against Gao under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act for his involvement in a gross violation of human rights, specifically arbitrary detention. Pursuant to Section 7031(c), Gao and his immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.

Hu has served as the Deputy Office Director for the Xinjiang Work Coordination Small Group of the Central Committee (XWCSG) since 2012. The XWCSG, first formed in 2000, has been instrumental in shaping and implementing Xinjiang policies. As a part of its core role in setting policy in Xinjiang, the XWCSG engaged in direct and close involvement in the PRC’s March 2017 “XUAR De-Extremification Regulation,” and its October 2018 revision, which provided the framework for Xinjiang’s “de-extremification” through re-education campaign. The regulation created a presumptive legal basis for Xinjiang’s re-education internment campaign in the eyes of the PRC government. According to an August 2022 UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) assessment, detainees reported having been subjected to beatings, interrogation with water being poured over their faces, prolonged solitary confinement, sexual violence, and invasive gynecological examinations.

Hu is being designated for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, any of the activities described in subsection (ii)(A) of Section 1(a) of E.O. 13818.

SOUTH SUDAN

Today, OFAC designated Gordon Koang Biel (Biel), Gatluak Nyang Hoth (Hoth), and Joseph Mantiel Wajang (Wajang), the Koch County Commissioner, the Mayendit County Commissioner, and the Unity State Governor, respectively. Between February and April 2022, government-aligned forces and allied militias under Biel and Hoth’s command were responsible for systematic rape, often accompanied by other human rights violations, perpetrated against women and girls during armed attacks in Leer County of Unity State. An investigation by the United Nations revealed that these armed groups used sexual slavery, including rape and gang rape, of abducted women and girls as an incentive and reward for combatants. After the attacks, Biel and Hoth did not hold their forces accountable. Biel encouraged his forces to continue these abuses by ordering the rape of women and girls that were captured. As Unity State Governor, Wajang, appointed Biel and Hoth as county commissioners, and was aware of the attacks but did not prevent, discourage, or institute any form of sanction against Biel and Hoth for their role in the serious crimes committed.

Biel, Hoth, and Wajang are being designated for being responsible for or complicit in, or for having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan pursuant to E.O. 13664.

UGANDA

Today, OFAC designated Johnson Byabashaija (Byabashaija), Commissioner General of the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) since 2005. During that period, members of the UPS have engaged in torture and other serious human rights abuse against prisoners held within UPS facilities. Prisoners have reported being tortured and beaten by UPS staff and by fellow prisoners at the direction of UPS staff. Members of vulnerable groups, including government critics and members of Uganda’s LGBTQI+ community, have been beaten and held without access to legal counsel; for example, in a 2020 case, the UPS denied a group of LGBTQI+ persons access to their lawyers and members of the group reportedly endured physical abuse, including a forced anal examination and scalding.

Byabashaija is being designated for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse relating to the leader’s or official’s tenure pursuant to E.O. 13818.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

As a result of today’s actions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.

In addition, financial institutions and other persons that engage in certain transactions or activities with the sanctioned entities and individuals may expose themselves to sanctions or be subject to an enforcement action. The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any designated person, or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

The power and integrity of OFAC sanctions derive not only from OFAC’s ability to designate and add persons to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List, but also from its willingness to remove persons from the SDN List consistent with the law. The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior.

For example, the Department of the Treasury notes recent attempts by the Uganda Prisons Service to implement human rights-related measures, but these measures fall short. Should Byabashaija implement effective measures to eliminate torture and impunity, increase independent human rights monitoring, ban forced anal examinations and other forms of abuse used to target LGBTQI+ persons and others, ensure protections for vulnerable persons and groups, and improve overall prison conditions, the Department of the Treasury will consider those to be changes of behavior that would potentially result in his removal from the SDN List.

For information concerning the process for seeking removal from an OFAC list, including the SDN List, please refer to OFAC’s Frequently Asked Question 897 here. For detailed information on the process to submit a request for removal from an OFAC sanctions list, please click here.

GLOBAL MAGNITSKY

Building upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, E.O. 13818 was issued on December 20, 2017, in recognition that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, had reached such scope and gravity as to threaten the stability of international political and economic systems. Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets. The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.

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