Posts Tagged ‘sanctions’

The case for ‘smart sanctions’ against individual perpetrators

May 8, 2015

On 5 May Daniel Calingaert, Executive vice president of Freedom House, contributed an interesting piece to The Hill, in which he argues in favor of ‘targeted sanctions’ against leading individuals who have committed serious human rights violations or engaged in corruption. “Holding torturers and kleptocrats to account” certainly makes some excellent points including the realistic one that countries should be “strong and confident enough both to cooperate with authoritarian governments where prudent and to still hold their human rights abusers and corrupt officials to account“.

 Here the piece in full:

“On May 5, the European Union’s Court of Justice will hear a complaint by the head of Iran’s state broadcaster, Mohammad Sarafraz, and the news director of its English-language channel, Hamid Reza Emadi. The EU imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on them because they broadcast forced confessions by tortured or mistreated political prisoners. Sarafraz and Emadi want the restrictions lifted. But even if they lose their case, they can park their money in the United States, because they aren’t on a U.S. sanctions list.

Their case shows that sanctions hurt human rights abusers and corrupt officials, as intended. And that’s a key selling point for the bipartisan Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (S. 284/H.R. 624) being debated on Capitol Hill. The bill, based on Russia-specific sanctions legislation adopted in 2012, would begin to hold human rights abusers and corrupt officials to account around the world by denying them U.S. visas and access to our financial system.

Aside from the Russia-specific sanctions, executive orders have imposed sanctions on human rights abusers in Iran (though the U.S. sanctions list for Iran is significantly shorter than the EU’s) and on seven Venezuelan officials. Targeted sanctions on human rights abusers should be expanded worldwide, because authoritarian rulers and their lieutenants are driving a global decline in respect for human rights. According to Freedom House’s ratings, media freedom has fallen to its lowest point in 10 years, and political and civil rights overall have deteriorated for nine consecutive years.

Targeted sanctions as envisioned by the Global Magnitsky Act could start to turn this trend around. It would build on current policy of condemning human rights abuses and supporting human rights defenders by actually going after the perpetrators of abuses. Perpetrators are usually shielded by their government and expect to evade justice. If a penalty loomed over their head, they may think twice about committing their crimes.

By imposing consequences on individual abusers, the Global Magnitsky Act would force authoritarian rulers into a difficult choice: either to protect the most repugnant officials and thereby expose the cruelty of their regimes or to cut loose the officials who do their dirty work and keep them in power.

A Global Magnitsky Act also targets high-level corruption — the Achilles heel of authoritarian regimes. While human rights might seem a bit abstract to ordinary citizens, corruption is all too real. Citizens understand what’s wrong with corrupt officials getting rich at the public’s expense while everyone else struggles to make ends meet.

Corruption often fuels human rights abuses. Because corrupt officials stand to lose their ill-gotten gains if they leave office, they will go to ever-greater lengths to hold onto power. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was a prime example. As he and his family amassed enormous wealth, he tightened media restrictions, selectively prosecuted opposition figures and increasingly manipulated elections.

Under the Global Magnitsky Act’s targeted sanctions, no country would be singled out. And it would apply to countries like China and Saudi Arabia that tend to escape criticism for their human rights abuses because of U.S. economic or security interests.

The executive branch would decide whom to sanction. But it would have to listen to Congress’s input and explain its decisions. And chances are that governments with an extensive apparatus of repression would end up with more than seven officials on the sanctions list.

If passed, a Global Magnitsky Act probably will elicit some angry responses, like Venezuela’s cryabout “a new escalation of aggression” and “extraordinary threat” from the United States. But authoritarian governments can’t give an honest response, because they can’t admit that they harbor officials responsible for human rights abuses and large-scale corruption. If China’s leadership were sincere, it ought to welcome a Global Magnitsky Act for reinforcing President Xi Jinping’s policy of cracking down on corrupt officials and stemming their flow of assets abroad.

The prospect of angry reactions shouldn’t discourage the introduction of the Global Magnitsky Act. The United States always meets resistance when it champions human rights, because authoritarian governments prefer to avoid responsibility for their violations. We shouldn’t let their officials abuse their power and then benefit from our legal protections.

And we shouldn’t accept their insistence that we look away from human rights abuses as the price for economic or security cooperation. The Global Magnitsky Act would focus pressure on the perpetrators, not commercial relations. We should use our influence and engage authoritarian governments on our terms. We can be strong and confident enough both to cooperate with authoritarian governments where prudent and to still hold their human rights abusers and corrupt officials to account.”

Holding torturers and kleptocrats to account | TheHill.

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/human-rights-defenders-and-anti-corruption-campaigners-should-join-hands/

 

Kirk-Rubio Bill in US Senate risks to undermine Human Rights Defenders in Iran

September 14, 2014

A marvelous example of how (bellicose) sanctions can harm human rights defenders is to be found in this piece of 10 September by

Tyler CullisTyler CullisJamal Abdi.

Under the title Kirk-Rubio Bill Would Undermine Human Rights in Iran, Torpedo Nuclear Talks”, they argue that a new Senate bill (fortunately still pending) that purports to support human rights in Iran would actually ratchet up broad sanctions on the Iranian population, bolster Iranian hardliners, and even directly target some Iranian human rights defenders. The bill would impose new sanctions under the guise of human rights and threaten to derail the nuclear talks while undermining human rights defenders inside Iran. Considering that Senator Kirk has previously called on the US to collectively punish and “take the food out of the mouths” of Iranians, this charade of human rights concern is especially callous.

As Iranian human rights defenders [including MEA Laureate Emad Baghi] continue to speak out against sanctions and in support of current diplomatic efforts, the Kirk-Rubio bill would escalate Iran’s isolation through broad sanctions and risk torpedoeing nuclear talks. If passed, the legislation would be a gift to hardline political factions in Iran, who themselves are widely suspected of  ratcheting up abuses to gain the upper-hand against moderates seeking to implement internal reforms and secure a diplomatic deal with world powers.

 

Kirk-Rubio Bill Would Undermine Human Rights in Iran, Torpedo Nuclear Talks – National Iranian American Council NIAC.

Ganji: Human rights in Iran improved, but still short of expectations

March 26, 2014

 

Remise du Prix Martin Ennals 2006

(Ganji – second from the right – at the MEA ceremony of 2006, where he received the award from UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour)

Al-Monitor of 25 March carries a lengthy interview with MEA Laureate Akbar Ganji in which Jahandad Memarian records many interesting insights, especially on the issue of sanctions and support to human rights defenders. The whole interview is certainly worth reading; here follow some long excerpts:

It is not an exaggeration to say that Akbar Ganji is the most celebrated dissident within the ranks of Iranian journalists since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. A former supporter of the revolution, Ganji became disenchanted and turned into one of its most vocal critics. He is best known for his work as a journalist covering the 1998 murders of Iranian dissidents in Reformist newspapers, a series which came to be known as “the chain murders” that implicated top governmental officials. For his work revealing the murders of dissidents and attending a conference in Berlin that was condemned by hard-liners who were reeling after a Reformist victory in parliament, Ganji was arrested and served time in Tehran’s Evin Prison from 2001 to 2006. During his final year in prison, he went on a hunger strike that doctors urged him to end for concerns he would suffer permanent brain damage.

Ganji has won several international awards, including the World Association of Newspapers’ Golden Pen of Freedom Award, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression’s International Press Freedom Award, the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders and the Cato Institute Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. In an exclusive interview via email with Al-Monitor, Ganji, based in New York, shared his thoughts about human rights and democracy in the context of President Hassan Rouhani’s administration.

Al-Monitor:  The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has sharply criticized the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, saying, “He has not made any significant improvement” in ending human rights abuses since taking office. Nevertheless, Mahmoud Sadri — Iranian professor of sociology at the Federation of North Texas Area Universities — is optimistic about the new administration and has asked Iranian dissidents and intellectuals to take advantage of this historic opportunity. How do you evaluate the Rouhani administration?

Ganji:  The situation has improved from various aspects compared with the [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad administration. However, it falls short of the expectations of democracy advocates and human rights activists. The Rouhani administration truly seeks to improve the state of human rights, but it has faced obstacles in Iran’s power hierarchy, including organizations that [Supreme Leader] Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei oversees, such as the judiciary, law enforcement, etc., in addition to the Majles [parliament] that is controlled by the conservatives and some radical reactionaries.

…….Since his administration came to power, Rouhani has spoken with the supreme leader about freeing the Green Movement’s leaders (former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi and former Majles speaker Mehdi Karoubi) and political prisoners, guaranteeing that nothing would happen, if they were freed.

Al-Monitor:  In January, you wrote a Huffington Post article titled “The Iran Nuclear Accord Is Good for Human Rights.” It seems to me whenever international pressure on the Iranian government increased, Iran improved its record. For example, Tehran released political prisoners ahead of Hassan Rouhani’s UN speech, including prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. Don’t you think such actions stem from international pressure? In the absence of this leverage — i.e., international pressure — Iran would continue human rights violations.

Ganji:  With regard to “external pressure on an undemocratic regime and improvement of human rights or increased oppression,” there is no law/rule that would address the cause-reaction relationships. At most, one can speak of “correlation.”[…] we need to know the following:

First, economic sanctions represent the collective punishment of a country’s people and do not necessarily lead to dictatorships’ downfall.

Second, long-term sanctions destroy the internal infrastructure of societies. ..Consequently, trust that is the basis of social capital is destroyed. Because of the sanctions, the oppressive regime’s increasing level of oppression, the internal destruction of society, is not visible. It is only in the aftermath of the dictatorship’s downfall that we will witness the visible spread of a wave of hatred, revenge and violence.

Third, in a life and death situation, the state of human rights, democracy and freedom completely falls by the wayside.

Fourth, consider Iraq’s example again. Before, the invasion al-Qaeda forces did not exist in Iraq, but they were born and bred as a result of the US sanctions and the US attack on Iraq. This story has been repeated in Libya and Syria. …..Iranian, US and European officials have professed that economic sanctions against Iran have affected Iran’s economy negatively. Last year, the economic growth rate fell to -5.8%. The inflation rate rose to 40%. The corruption rate climbed, and other negative outcomes followed. We should ask ourselves, what is the impact of recession on ordinary people’s lives?

The middle class, as a vehicle of democracy, has been transformed to the impoverished class, and its democratic movement may lose its agents. Democracy is the product of the balance of power between the government and civil society.

The transformation of the nuclear agreement from temporary to permanent, improvement of Iran’s relationship with Western governments, rekindling of ties between Iran and the United States, lifting of all the economic sanctions and alleviation of foreign threats can help empower the people through their mobilization and expansion of civil society. In that sense, the regime’s focus and its supporters will not be on discovering conspiracies of foreign governments and military attacks to destroy the regime. Let’s not forget that democracy and human rights have a direct relationship with economic development.

Al-Monitor:  You have opposed US aid to Iranian dissidents and human rights activists. What are your key criticisms against such aid? What actions should foreign countries.. take or avoid ?

Ganji:  The opposition that I have spoken about consists of groups and people that advocate regime change in Iran, so they can come to power. It is not possible for the leaders of a country to be indebted to other foreign governments, including the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China. In that case, they will become the greater powers’ pawns. Look at the groups that have received financial aid from foreign governments in the past 35 years. What have they done? Do their terrorist and espionage activities constitute human rights activism, or are such activities considered criminal in all countries, including the United States and Israel, and are they strongly punished?

However, I support educational financial aid, including student scholarships and research fellowships for scholars. Just think about what would have happened if the $1.5 trillion that was spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been used toward education and development of the Middle East, and how that would have changed the region. Why do Western governments, the United States included, not grant scholarships to tens of thousands of talented and smart Iranian youth as students in social sciences?

Western governments should protest all human rights violations; they should give ethical and spiritual support to pro-democracy and human rights activists; they should file complaints at the UN Human Rights Council and ease the process of bringing perpetrators to justice. Moreover, Western powers should stop selling weapons of torture and oppression to dictatorial regimes. Ultimately, they should allocate financial resources to form independent labor unions and improve the state of human rights.

Ganji: Human rights improved, still short of expectations in Iran – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

Read more:

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/iran/

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/03/rouhani-reform-nuclear-iran-politics-student-human-rights.html#ixzz2x3K4G8RK