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WASHINGTON – Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.S. on Friday imposed sanctions on 20 people, from Afghanistan to China to Haiti to Iran, accused of violating human rights in their respective nations.
Included in the sanctions are two Afghanistan government ministers accused of repressing women and girls, by restricting access to secondary education; two Iranian intelligence officers who the Treasury says plot violence against Iranian regime opponents beyond the nation’s borders and two Chinese officials accused of torturing Uyghur ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region of China.
“Our commitment to upholding and defending human rights is sacrosanct,” said Treasury Secretary Janet 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,” she said.
She said the agency’s human rights sanctions “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.”
The sanctions block access to U.S. property and bank accounts and prevent the targeted people and companies from doing business with Americans.
Republican lawmakers say the sanctions against Chinese officials do not go far enough.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said in a statement, “while we welcome this news, the Biden Administration has dragged its feet to implement sanctions under the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act for far too long.”
“Most alarmingly absent from the administration’s designations is Ma Xingrui,” a Xinjiang official accused of implementing China’s “genocidal policies against the Uyghurs and other ethnic groups,” the statement reads.
The human rights declaration, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948, enshrines a standard for human rights and freedoms for all people.
The State Department also imposed visa restrictions on a range of people — with a collective sanctions package of visa restrictions and sanctions on 37 individuals in 13 countries.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said many of Friday’s designations target people responsible for gender-based violence and the repression of women and girls.
“Our actions promote accountability for these heinous acts, especially in environments with poor adherence to the rule of law, and support members of vulnerable and marginalized populations including political dissidents, women, civil society leaders and activists, LGBTQI+ persons, and human rights defenders and environmental activists targeted by repressive governments,” Blinken said.