December 21, 2017 at 11:07 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
U.S. sanctions former Gambia president under human rights law

International LGBT news

The U.S. on Dec. 21, 2017, announced it has used a 2016 human rights law to sanction former Gambian PresidentYahya Jammeh and 12 other individuals. (White House photo public domain)

The U.S. on Thursday announced it has sanctioned former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh under a 2016 human rights law.

A press release from the Treasury Department notes the Trump administration has used the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act that former President Obama signed in 2016 to freeze the assets of Jammeh and a dozen other “serious human rights abusers and corrupt actors.”

President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order “declaring a national emergency with respect to serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world and providing for the imposition of sanctions on actors engaged in these malign activities.” The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also sanctioned “39 affiliated individuals and entities” under the directive.

“Today, alongside the president and the Department of the Treasury, the Department of State took action against persons who have committed serious human rights abuse and engaged in corruption around the world,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a statement. “The department is committed to protecting and promoting human rights and combatting corruption with all of the tools at our disposal.”  

“Today’s actions advance our values and promote the security of the United States, our allies, and our partners,” he added. “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.”

Jammeh came to power during a 1994 coup.

He stepped down in January after he lost to current President Adama Barrow in the country’s 2016 presidential election. Jammeh is currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

A report that Human Rights Watch released in 2015 notes police and officials with Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency “promptly rounded up” dozens of people “on suspicion of their sexual orientation” after Jammeh signed a law that sought to impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.”

Jammeh in 2015 said he would slit the throats of gay men in his country. He has also described gay men as “vermin” and said homosexuality is among the three “biggest threats to human existence.”

The Gambian government in 2014 stopped providing financial support to Jammeh’s nephew, Alagie Jammeh, who was studying at the University of California, Santa Barbara, at the time, because he posted a pro-LGBT message to his Facebook page. Alagie Jammeh received asylum in the U.S. in 2016.

The Treasury Department’s press release does not specifically refer to Jammeh’s anti-LGBT rights abuses, but it does note he “has a long history of engaging in serious human rights abuses and corruption.” The U.S. on Thursday also used the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to sanction former Gambian National Intelligence Agency Director General Yankuba Badjie.

Chechnya president sanctioned under 2012 human rights law

The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act is an expansion of the Magnitsky Act, which freezes the assets of Russian citizens who commit human rights abuses and bans them from entering the U.S. The law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after authorities arrested him after he investigated a $230 million tax fraud scheme.

The U.S. on Wednesday added Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and Ayub Kataev of the Chechen Internal Affairs Ministry to the list of those who are sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act. Kadyrov and Kataev are widely believed to be behind the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown in the semi-autonomous Russian republic that has sparked outrage around the world.

Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council President Roberto Rivas, arms dealer Slobodan Tesic, businessman Dan Gertler, Maj. Gen. Maung Maung Soe of Myanmar’s armed forces and Guatemalan Congressman Julio Antonio Júarez are among those the U.S. has also sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2018. All rights reserved.
Blade Blast

Get the latest LGBTQ news to your inbox every Thursday!