US diplomats and Treasury officials spent a year compiling evidence of the most brutal and cynical crimes by 14 senior figures and dozens of companies.
Then on Thursday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order blocking any assets that those exposed on the list might have in banks or property on US soil.
Prominent on the list, Myanmar’s General Maung Maung Soe is accused of leading a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against his country’s persecuted Rohingya minority.
As chief of the army’s Western Command, US officials said, he oversaw “killings, sexual violence, and arbitrary arrest as well as the widespread burning of villages.”
Another notorious figure is Gambia’s former president Yahya Jammeh, who stepped down this year but once ran a “terror and assassination squad called the Junglers.”
“He ordered the Junglers to kill a local religious leader, journalists, members of the political opposition, and former members of the government,” the US Treasury said.
The first woman added to the list was Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the late Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov, and allegedly an organized crime boss in her own right.
Karimova has been charged at home with theft and embezzlement and the US statement alleged she has laundered her network’s profits in a web of companies and funds.
The blacklist also includes officials and businessmen from Russia, China, Ukraine, Guatemala, Pakistan, Serbia, the Dominican Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Today’s actions advance our values and promote the security of the United States, our allies and our partners,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
“We must lead by example, and today’s announcement of sanctions demonstrates the United States will continue to pursue tangible and significant consequences for those who commit serious human rights abuse and engage in corruption.”
The global act, based on a previous US law that targeted Russian officials, was passed in late 2016 and officials have spent a year compiling the first list.
Just as the list of Russians under US sanctions has expanded regularly since the Magnitsky Act of 2012, the new global blacklist is also expected to grow.
Under the law, US citizens and institutions are forbidden from conducting business with those on the list, and any assets they hold under US jurisdiction are frozen.
– Corruption and abuse –
In addition, officials said, non-US foreign banks are often loathe to do business with blacklisted individuals in case their own US operations are exposed to prosecution.
“The United States is taking a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
“Treasury … will continue to take decisive and impactful actions to hold accountable those who abuse human rights, perpetrate corruption, and undermine American ideals.”
Anti-corruption campaigners, who have long argued that graft and physical human rights abuses go hand in hand, welcomed the Trump administration’s new stand.
“The United States has used financial pressures for decades against transnational threats such as nuclear proliferation and terrorism,” said Brad Brooks-Rubin of The Sentry, an anti-corruption advocacy group.
“With these designations, the United States now recognizes public corruption and targeting of human rights defenders in this same light,” he said.
“Over time, we look forward to robust use of these sanctions to target these threats wherever they occur.”