US sanctions Myanmar, South Sudan, Gambian figures over rights violations, corruption

President of the Republic of the Gambia Yahya Jammeh addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on Sept 25, 2014. He is one of 52 people and entities hit with sanctions for alleged human rights violations an
President of the Republic of the Gambia Yahya Jammeh addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on Sept 25, 2014. He is one of 52 people and entities hit with sanctions for alleged human rights violations and corruption.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - The United States on Thursday (Dec 21) imposed sanctions on 52 people and entities for alleged human rights violations and corruption, including Myanmar military officer Maung Maung Soe, who oversaw a brutal crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

"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 in a statement. 

"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 US Treasury Department said the United States had "examined credible evidence of Maung Maung Soe's activities, including allegations against Burmese security forces of extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and arbitrary arrest as well as the widespread burning of villages."

Others hit with sanctions included Benjamin Bol Mel, who has served as an adviser to South Sudan President Salva Kiir, and former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh, the department said.

The sanctions filed under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act showed the United States was "taking a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally by shutting these bad actors out of the US financial system," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

The move freezes any assets the sanctioned individuals and entities may hold under US jurisdiction and blocks Americans from dealing with them.

Among others targeted were Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of former Uzbekistan leader Islam Karimov, citing "corrupt activities," the statement said.

The global act, based on a previous US law that targeted Russian officials, was passed in late 2016 and US diplomats and Treasury officials have spent a year compiling a list of those they regard as among the world's worst offenders.