Human Rights Daily

No conflict between promoting human rights and national security; wars destroy human rights and national security claims are not credible

Sarah Leah Whitson, January 10, 2022, The Human Rights vs. National Security Dilemma Is a Fallacy,

Human rights organizations have faced decades of dead ends. But one strategy in particular has been a consistent failure: demanding that the U.S. government “prioritize human rights.” That’s because the demand itself is based on a false assumption. Insisting that Washington put human rights first is premised on the notion that governments have to balance the competing interests of human rights and national security interests and then choose (or prioritize) one or the other. Either the United States must secure its interests by protecting the rights and security of U.S. citizens—so the argument goes—or choose to respect the rights of citizens of other countries. This false choice is sometimes presented as a dilemma, but if the choice is framed this way, there’s really no contest: It’s any government’s primary duty to protect the security and interests of its citizens. And, as a result, demands to prioritize human rights fail out of the gate. Of course, the U.S. government is perfectly capable of ensuring the security of its own citizens without befriending tyrants, selling arms to autocrats, and trampling on the human rights of others—but advocates rarely make this argument. Human rights advocates must opt in to political debates about U.S. security interests—and challenge double-dealing government officials who serve lobbying interests. Instead, the human rights advocacy community has internalized this manufactured dilemma in its rhetoric and writing. Amnesty International “calls on Congress to prioritize human rights in National Defense Authorization Act legislation” in a September 2021 press release, while another missive to the U.S. government argues “no government should sacrifice people’s human rights in the name of national security.” The Carnegie Endowment issued a thoughtful paper on U.S. support for abusive governments but framed it in the context of the “democracy-security dilemma” where “confronting partner governments over their political shortcomings risks triggering hostility that would jeopardize the security benefits that such governments provide to Washington.” To the apparent surprise of some, the Biden administration has very rapidly broken its own oft-repeated pledge to put human rights at the “core” of its foreign policy, inviting a tsunami of critical op-eds and letters from rights groups. But there really was no reason to believe the administration would do otherwise, faced with the unquestioned “national security” interests, the sirens of lucrative arms sales, and global military domination. U.S. President Joe Biden’s promise wasn’t really about prioritizing human rights against traditional rivals and enemies, where there’s little to give up by doing so. Sanctions against Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and even Russia and China (to name just a few of the at least 25 countries the U.S. government sanctions), along with congressional resolutions and State Department condemnations, are beloved by Republican and Democratic administrations alike. The heart of the contested sphere in the supposed rights versus interests dilemma is Washington’s military and political support to brutal governments, most prominently in the Middle East (described as America’s “partners,” “friends,” and sometimes even “allies”), that citizens are told serve U.S. interests. Only by challenging the validity of these claimed national interests—and the credibility and legitimacy of those championing these interests—do rights advocates stand a chance of changing dangerous and harmful U.S. policies that wreak havoc on human rights around the globe. The advocacy community must affirmatively opt in to the political debates about U.S. security interests, military hegemony, and warmongering—and openly challenge the double-dealing government officials who direct U.S. policy in the service of foreign and domestic lobbying interests. The great tragedy of the foreign-policy advocacy community, particularly the human rights community, is that it has accepted the stated dilemma between rights and interests and is reluctant to challenge Washington’s assumed national security interests. There’s a baked-in deference to, and even reverence for, the U.S. military establishment as experts dedicated and loyal to serving America’s national security interests. But given the United States’ disastrous military interventions around the world, from Vietnam to Iraq to Somalia to Afghanistan, it’s hard to understand why this deference to mythical national security expertise persists. These U.S. wars were failures not just because of bad civilian policy decisions to go to war but because of flawed military execution, command, and control. What’s worse is the evidence of decades of lies from U.S. military commanders about how badly the wars were going: lies the world heard about Iraq, including claims of weapons of mass destruction in the country by the late Gen. Colin Powell, then secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and lies about how well things were going in Afghanistan, year in, year out, from the likes of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Gen. David Petraeus. More recently, the New York Times documented how the Pentagon dismissed evidence of civilian casualties during the war against the Islamic State in 1,300 confidential assessments of airstrikes, the vast majority of which were apparently bogus; the evidence in these strikes in fact revealed “patterns of failed intelligence, decision-making and execution” that the Pentagon was only too eager to brush aside. It’s hard to understand the persistent deference to military and security experts given the corruption and conflicts of interest that compromise their trustworthiness. It’s also hard to understand the persistent deference to military and security experts given the increasing corruption and conflicts of interest that compromise the trustworthiness of their advice. The influence of the military-industrial complex has been around for a long time, but the expansion of defense industry lobbying spending—totaling over $108 million in 2020 and $2.5 billion in the last two decades—is breathtaking. Around half of the ever-expanding budget for defense is spent on the very companies doing the bulk of the lobbying, a testament to their success. At the same time, a virtually unregulated revolving door to the defense industry means U.S. military and security officials plan future careers at Raytheon and General Dynamics while holding their budgeting pens in the Pentagon. A stunning 73 percent of the 663 lobbyists employed by defense companies in 2020 formerly worked for the federal government. While that revolving door previously opened only to American defense contractors, there’s now a growing group of U.S. security officials finding more lucrative foreign government paymasters, selling their tradecraft of warfare, surveillance, spying, and sabotage to Arab monarchs and emirs, who then seek to target, harass, and even murder lawyers, journalists, and activists, even inside the United States. Proposed amendments to the 2022 Intelligence Authorization Act would include some limits, such as, for example, barring senior intelligence officials from working for foreign governments for 30 months after leaving their jobs and requiring they disclose their new jobs. But this will do little to curtail the bad behavior.

Sanctions causing mass starvation in Afghanistan

Murtaza Hussain, January 9, 2022, The Silence — or Worse — of Human Rights Hawks on U.S. Sanctions Against Afghanistan,

MONTHS AFTER THE U.S.-backed Afghan government fell to the Taliban, ordinary Afghans now face what could be their direst winter in decades. Thanks to the economic collapse that accompanied the U.S. military withdrawal, coupled with the imposition of sanctions and the cessation of much humanitarian aid, millions of Afghans must contend with the very real prospect of starvation. Some will die. Many will lose their lives to preventable deaths. While limited humanitarian exceptions for trade have been carved out in recent weeks, the World Health Organization has already warned that up to 1 million Afghan children may die as a result of malnutrition over this winter if drastic steps are not taken. Children are already bearing the brunt of the humanitarian catastrophe, punctuated by horrifying stories of kids being sold to pay for food. And the country’s notoriously harsh winter is already taking a toll: Afghans are freezing to death as they flee the country with their families. U.S. sanctions policy is directly to blame, pushing Afghans over the edge as they already struggle to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and the political upheaval created by the collapse of the central government. As Paul Spiegel, director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote this December, after returning from a trip to Afghanistan on behalf of the WHO, “I can clearly state that if the United States and other Western governments do not change their Afghanistan sanction policies, more Afghans will die from sanctions than at the hands of the Taliban.” The deaths will be brought about as a result of deliberate policy decisions made in the U.S. Alongside new sanctions imposed after the Taliban takeover, the U.S. froze nearly $10 billion of Afghanistan’s central bank holdings here. The Biden administration refuses to release the funds despite ongoing public protests by Afghans. As all of this plays out, the clamor of voices criticizing the U.S. military withdrawal this summer on humanitarian grounds has gone deadly silent. After the withdrawal, many commentators and political leaders claimed that there was a humanitarian imperative behind the conflict, particularly the protection Afghan women. Many of the humanitarian and feminist arguments had been used for years to help justify a military occupation that was often despised by the same people it was ostensibly defending. In contrast, ending the current sanctions regime and releasing funds owned by Afghans actually would do something unambiguously positive for civilians there, including women and children who are particularly at risk. The cognitive dissonance on display is perhaps best underlined by Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This summer, McCaul decried the fate of Afghan women. “We’re seeing this nightmare unfold — unmitigated disaster of epic proportions,” he said in an interview. “And what I really worried about the most are the women left behind and what’s going to happen to them.” When the Biden administration then put sanctions exemptions in place to allow some humanitarian aid, McCaul then turned around to condemn the limited relief — even as news reports described the economic collapse wreaking havoc on the lives of Afghans, including women and children. Many Failures of Sanctions Sanctions are one of the bluntest coercive tools in the U.S. foreign policy toolkit — and happen be a favorite of policymakers, even as they rarely produce political results. Afghanistan is just one example of a mindlessly cruel sanctions regime that wreaks havoc on entire civilian populations without accountability. For decades, Iranians have been subjected to some of the most crushing sanctions on earth. Obstacles are erected against even the most anodyne business ventures. Young people there are unable to envision a fruitful life in the country. The sanctions on Iran were intensified under the Trump administration but have continued under President Joe Biden, as part of a desperate effort to force a total capitulation over Iran’s nuclear program. Even Cold War-era sanctions on countries like Cuba continue to remain in effect to this day, absent any compelling geopolitical reasons. In a recent example that underlined the parodic nature of the Cuba sanctions policy, the rental company Airbnb was hit with a fine for doing business on the island and allowing Cubans access to its accommodation services. This was just the latest limitation on ordinary Cubans’ ability to conduct basic economic transactions or engage in trade with companies headquartered abroad and thus at risk of U.S. sanctions. Despite being in place for years and making life hard for Cubans, the sanctions have done little to further U.S. foreign policy objectives. “The sanctions on Cuba have been completely ineffective in achieving their policy goals,” said William LeoGrande, a government professor at American University and an expert on the Cuban sanctions regime. “They haven’t brought about regime change. All they’ve done really is inflict pain on the Cuban people.” The situation in Afghanistan may yet stand out as one of the deadliest instances of violence against civilians inflicted by U.S. sanctions. The Afghan government that was built over two decades of American occupation was created to be wholly dependent on foreign support, particularly its health care system. With the abrupt withdrawal of aid and the imposition of sanctions, millions of Afghans, including women and children, are now at risk. It seems unlikely that sanctions will do what 20 years of war could not: build a stable government that keeps the Taliban out of power. More stories of starvation, death from the cold, and families broken apart by economic need are likely to result from the present approach of preventing access to funds owned by the Afghan government and denying aid. And it seems unlikely that such measures will do what 20 years of war could not: build a stable government that keeps the Taliban out of power. Though sanctions on Afghanistan won’t achieve U.S. political aims, they are, as in so many other countries, succeeding in visiting cruel consequences upon the most vulnerable. House Democrats have called on Biden to release funds owned by Afghanistan’s central bank, but the administration has so far been resistant to this step. One reason could be that reversing course would reveal the brutality of the underlying policy — employing sanctions to deny foreign nations’ central banks access to their funds — which the U.S. government continues to do in other cases. Meanwhile, the broader sanctions regime on Afghanistan remains in place, with ordinary Afghans bearing the brunt. “To help Afghanistan make progress on the humanitarian front, it is simply not enough to just give aid to Afghanistan. Washington’s financial warfare against the country must end,” wrote Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of Gulf State Analytics and an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project. “Those in the West who voiced so much concern about the lack of freedom for Afghan women under the Taliban ought to also care about their survival this winter.”

Targeted sanctions destroy the lives of civilians

George A. Lopez is the Hesburgh Professor of Peace Studies emeritus, at the Kroc Institute of the University of Notre Dame, January 7, 2022, TIME TO RECALIBRATE US SANCTIONS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS,

As we finish the first year of the Biden administration it has become clear that targeted economic sanctions have been the president’s preferred tool to punish dictators in the hope of stifling human rights abuses. In wielding such sanctions, the administration faces the most challenging of many sanctions’ dilemmas. In pressuring for civil and political rights, coercive sanctions increasingly devastate the socio-economic rights of innocent civilians. The three ongoing fully sanctioned nations of Iran, Venezuela, and Syria exemplify this bitter irony at crisis levels. Can economic sanctions be recalibrated to constrain dictators while limiting their negative impact on the citizens we mean to protect? The policy debates regarding this task abound. Various analysts, with ample supportive evidence, claim that targeted financial and banking sanctions are so destructive to citizen well-being that these sanctions constitute an anti-population weapon that violates international law and should be prohibited in all cases. Another view often heard from the governments that levy sanctions argues that the incompetence and brutality of the sanctioned leaders magnify civilian harm as they redirect the most devastating economic consequences of sanctions against their own citizens and usually reject remedies that might mitigate such socioeconomic disaster. IN PRESSURING FOR CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS, COERCIVE SANCTIONS INCREASINGLY DEVASTATE THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS OF INNOCENT CIVILIANS. My own perspective argues that the development of targeted, smart sanctions was meant to provide decisionmakers with a menu of choices by which each coercive measure imposed derived from the severity of the international law violation or normative offense it was designed to punish. Tragically, many leaders of powerful Western nations have chosen to impose these sharpened, discrete sanctions in full combination, resulting in maximum economic pain, but with minimal attainment of stated political objectives. Three months ago, the 2021 Department of Treasury Sanctions Review pledged that US sanctions policy would devote more attention to mitigating unintended negative humanitarian effects of sanctions. Yet, it was short on specific next steps to be taken to attain this goal. That noted, there have been some actions taken by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that have facilitated new processes and guidance that make delivery of humanitarian goods easier in each of these nations. And the administration has opened new relief efforts through the UN and not enforced some of the more draconian areas of the Caesar Act that complicated various relief efforts in Syria. WHAT REVERSING SANCTIONS WILL DO Despite these competing explanations of sanctions impact and OFAC’s new actions, there is a dire need for US decisionmakers to take new, proactive humanitarian and human rights measures in the besieged economies of the three nations most victimized by over-sanctioning. None of these measures will benefit Assad, Maduro, or Iran’s nuclear program. Rather, they will begin to remedy in meaningful ways the countless harms done to civilians. In Syria, a workable, special financial channel for banks to facilitate humanitarian supplies and other goods is a priority. So too is expanding the list of early recovery materials needed to rebuild infrastructure. And the US should permit Syrians in exile to send remittances to families still in the country. In Venezuela, the US should reformulate sanctions on oil exports and facilitate new trade and revenues to uplift civilians via a well-monitored “oil-for-essentials” program. Revenues earned could provide a much-needed injection of citizen purchasing power. And through offering the suspension on some sanctions this month, the US can leverage such incentives for leaders to negotiate a more viable and reformed government at a critical time. Even with all the complicated linkages of US sanctions with Iranian nuclear development and current negotiations, Washington can still take significant rights-affirming actions. Of particular benefit to the average Iranian would be to end the stranglehold on Iran’s access to foreign exchange. So too would be facilitating repairs in Iran’s supply chains in transportation and banking access to money, medicines, and food supplies needed to carry on daily life. That counter-productive use of sanctions in the name of human rights can be reversed. And the three most difficult cases of Venezuela, Iran, and Syria are the best areas for improvement. The US does not need to accept that economic measures imposed to restore democracy and to punish political leaders for human rights violations, must also devastate citizens’ socioeconomic rights and wellbeing. The time for recalibrating sanctions to enhance, not deteriorate, basic human rights, has arrived.

China destroying freedom of the press and other human rights

Washington Post Editorial Board, 12-31, 21, Opinion: China’s assault on press freedom silences another independent voice in Hong Kong,

Even as China has intensified its squeeze on democracy and individual freedom in Hong Kong, the former British colony’s pro-Beijing government has denied that anything untoward has gone on. In September, Regina Ip, a member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council and its Legislative Council, said at a meeting of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, “The freedom of expression is still alive and well.” She cited the fact that a pro-democracy site, Stand News, was “still carrying on as usual.” That was then. On Wednesday, Stand News shut down after police raided its offices; authorities also took seven people associated with the enterprise into custody. Among those arrested was Denise Ho, a pop music star and a former Stand News board member, whose global campaign for human rights in Hong Kong has long made her a target of Beijing’s ire. (Ms. Ho and three others were granted bail.) Thus did China’s authorities snuff out what was probably the last dissident media voice in the territory, whose final feature stories included one listing about 50 independent journalistic organizations that had shut over the past year. The government charges Stand News with “inciting hatred against the Hong Kong government,” in purported violation of a previously little-used sedition law. The final straw, apparently, was a Stand News article about the government’s alleged mistreatment of asylum seekers — mostly from elsewhere in Asia — in a new detention center. Yet Stand News had been under pressure for months before to that, even after it deleted political commentary in June. “Stand News’s editorial policy was to be independent and committed to safeguarding Hong Kong’s core values of democracy, human rights, freedom, the rule of law and justice,” the outlet’s final statement to readers noted. And that was its essential crime. Notably, Ms. Ho, though born in Hong Kong, is a Canadian citizen. Her arrest conveys a message that even non-Chinese nationals are subject to its crackdown and that Beijing disdains the opinions of, or pressure from, outside democracies. In that sense, the Chinese government is demonstrating how different it is from Poland, whose president, Andrzej Duda, vetoed a bill Monday that would have crippled a broadcast network, TVN, by forcing a current investor to divest its controlling stake. The ostensible rationale was that the investor in question — U.S.-based Discovery — is not Polish. The likely real reason for the bill was TVN’s often critical coverage of the conservative-led government in Warsaw. Mr. Duda, admirably, said he acted in part to protect “media pluralism.” The Biden administration had urged Mr. Duda to do the right thing, and it had leverage because of Poland’s concern for its standing in the European Union and Western military alliance. No comparable leverage exists with regard to China, which apparently believes it can violate its past commitments to protect liberty in Hong Kong with impunity, even as it prepares to stage the Winter Olympics in February. The crushing of press freedom in Hong Kong joins anti-Uyghur genocide on the list of reasons it was right for President Biden to stage a diplomatic boycott of the Games — and why the struggle for human rights in China will need more such solidarity in the years ahead.

Russia eliminating human rights groups

Jocab Knutson, 12-29, 21, Russian court dissolves 2 prominent human rights groups,

The Russian Supreme Court ordered a prominent human rights group, the International Memorial Society, to liquidate, the group announced on Twitter on Tuesday. The latest: The court on Wednesday ordered the closure of the Memorial Human Rights Center, a sister organization of Memorial International. The Memorial Human Rights Center was charged with violating Russia’s “foreign agent” law and “justifying terrorism and extremism,” an organization lawyer told CNN. Why it matters: The closures are a major blow to the country’s shrinking civil society and a continuation of the Kremlin’s campaign to stifle political dissent and crack down on groups advocating for democratic reforms. Context: Memorial International, which was established in the late 1980s to study human rights abuses committed by the Soviet Union, was designated as a foreign agent organization by the Justice Ministry in 2016 because it received international funding, according to CNN. Prosecutors later accused the nonprofit of violating laws regulating foreign agents by not labeling its materials with a foreign agent label — an allegation the Russian Supreme Court upheld Tuesday. The big picture: The foreign agent designation has been repeatedly used by the Russian government to suppress opposition figures, activists, journalists and human rights lawyers, according to the Washington Post. Tuesday’s court ruling could set a precedent for other organizations that have been designated as foreign agents by the Russian government.

China cracking down on the free press in Hong Kong

Vivian Wang, 12-28, 21, Hong Kong Police Raid Office of Pro-Democracy News Site, Arrest 7,

HONG KONG — Hundreds of Hong Kong police officers arrested seven people connected to an outspoken pro-democracy news website and raided the site’s headquarters on Wednesday, in yet another government crackdown on the city’s once-vibrant independent press. Within hours, the site, Stand News, announced that it would shut down immediately, and its website and social media pages would be deleted within a day. All employees were dismissed. “Stand News’s editorial policy was to be independent and committed to safeguarding Hong Kong’s core values of democracy, human rights, freedom, the rule of law and justice,” the announcement said. “Thank you, readers, for your continued support.” The seven were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious material, according to the police. A senior official, Steve Li, accused the publication at a news conference of publishing “inflammatory” content intended to incite hatred toward the government and the judiciary, especially through its coverage of the city’s fierce pro-democracy protests in 2019. John Lee, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, told reporters at a separate news conference that journalism could not be used as a screen for endangering national security. “These are the bad apples who are abusing their position simply by wearing a false coat of media worker,” he said when asked about Stand News. “They are the people who damage press freedom. Professional media workers should recognize this, say no to these people and stand far from them.” More than 200 officers from the police’s national security department entered the news site’s headquarters. Hong Kong officials have targeted critics across civil society, including in the news media, since the Chinese Communist Party imposed a national security law on the city in June 2020 to quell the fierce, at-times violent protests in 2019. Earlier this year, Apple Daily, perhaps the city’s best-known pro-democracy newspaper, was forced to close after multiple police raids of its newsroom and the arrests of several top editors and its founder, Jimmy Lai. On Tuesday, Mr. Lai was charged with a new accusation of sedition related to the newspaper, as were six other former senior employees. Mr. Lai, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent opposition voices, had already been sentenced to 20 months in prison in relation to his support of the pro-democracy movement, and he faces up to life in prison on other charges. Officials have sent warning letters to news outlets about coverage they dislike, and several foreign journalists have been denied visas to work in the former British colony. The government has also announced plans to enact a law against so-called fake news. After Apple Daily folded, Stand News — which was founded as a nonprofit in 2014 after an earlier round of mass pro-democracy protests that year — became one of the city’s last openly pro-democracy outlets. Officials made clear that it could be targeted next. Hong Kong’s security secretary, Chris Tang, this month accused the news site of “biased, smearing and demonizing” reports about conditions at a prison. Lau Siu-Kai, an adviser to Beijing, was even more blunt, telling Chinese state media that “the survival room” for opposition news outlets was shrinking. “Stand News will come into an end,” Mr. Lau said. The arrests on Wednesday began around 6 a.m., according to videos and posts shared on Facebook, when offic

Egyptian human rights violations

Washington Post Editorial Board, 12-27, 21, Opinion: In Egypt, new signs that the regime’s human rights strategy is to violate them

Egypt issued its national “human rights strategy” in September to mixed reviews. A hopeful few regarded the measure as a positive step for a dictatorship, headed by President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, a former general, that is notorious for keeping thousands of political prisoners. Skeptics considered it window dressing, intended to placate the Biden administration so that U.S. military aid would continue to flow. Judging by the latest news from Egypt, the skeptics were right: Mr. Sissi’s strategy for human rights still leaves plenty of room for continuing to violate them. Opinions to start the day, in your inbox. Sign up. Last week, an Egyptian court sentenced three leading activists to prison terms for “spreading false news undermining national security.” Alaa Abdel Fattah received five years — having already spent much of the past 10 years in detention. His former lawyer, Mohamed al-Baqer, and blogger Mohamed Ibrahim, known as “Oxygen,” got four years each. Mr. Abdel Fattah’s sister, Sanaa Seif, was convicted on similar charges in March, though she is expected to get out soon. Especially troubling about these convictions and sentences is the fact that they were imposed by one of five emergency courts that had been authorized under Egypt’s state of emergency. These institutions lack normal procedural protections for the accused. Mr. Sissi ended the state of emergency on Oct 25, partly as a concession to Washington, but under Egyptian law emergency-court trials that had commenced before that date continued. And 48 defendants were designated for trial in the emergency courts shortly before the state of emergency’s end, according to Human Rights Watch. Several of those targeted have links to the small Strong Egypt party, an anti-Sissi faction made up of relatively moderate former members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, whose government the Egyptian military overthrew in 2013. The State Department duly declared itself “disappointed” with the latest sentences. What progress there has been in Egypt lately consists of less punitive treatment for people who should never have been in legal jeopardy at all. Human rights advocate Hossam Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) was found guilty of spreading false news and insulting a state authority — he had tweeted criticism of a former electoral official of the regime — but his sentence was only a fine of $650. His fellow member of EIPR, Patrick George Zaki, was released Dec. 7 after being detained since last year — though he must still face a Feb. 1 trial for allegedly spreading false information. EIPR is one of several civil society organizations accused of illegally taking foreign money in a long-running, but largely trumped-up, prosecution known as Case 173. The Biden administration has held up the release of $130 million in military aid until Egypt ends this dubious proceeding and releases 16 unnamed political detainees. It might be that relative leniency for Mr. Bahgat and Mr. Zaki is Egypt’s way of meeting Washington’s conditions — at least in part. Even so, making a few exceptions to the generally repressive rule simply reinforces the Egyptian system’s lack of a clear and consistent rule of law. No dictator’s “strategy” can ever substitute for that.

US has banned imports from Xianjing  over forced labor

Amanda Macias, 12-23, 21, U.S. bans imports from China’s Xinjiang region, citing human rights abuses,

President Joe Biden signed a bill Thursday that bans imports from Xinjiang and imposes sanctions on individuals responsible for forced labor in the region. The Biden administration has previously described the abuse of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region as “widespread, state-sponsored forced labor” and “mass detention.” Beijing denies that it has abused religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. In this article WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden signed a bill Thursday that aims to crack down on human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region. The legislation bans imports from Xinjiang and imposes sanctions on individuals responsible for forced labor in the region. The measure marks Washington’s latest effort to curb the harsh treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China. Underscoring the broad support for addressing human rights abuses in the region, the Senate passed the bill unanimously this month following an overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House. The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. Beijing has denied it has mistreated religious and ethnic minorities in the region. The Biden administration has previously described the abuse of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities in the region as “widespread, state-sponsored forced labor” and “mass detention.” The Biden administration has previously warned businesses with supply chain and investment ties to Xinjiang that they could face legal consequences. It cited growing evidence of genocide and other human rights abuses in the country’s northwest region. In July, the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security and Labor, along with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, issued a warning to companies linked even “indirectly” to the Chinese government in Xinjiang. The most-pointed line from the Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory states that “businesses and individuals that do not exit supply chains, ventures, and/or investments connected to Xinjiang could run a high risk of violating U.S. law.” Earlier this month, U.S. chipmaker Intel issued a letter to its suppliers saying it had been required to “ensure that its supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region.” The letter triggered a backlash in China, where Intel employs about 10,000 people. Intel apologizes to China On Thursday, Intel apologized in a new statement written in Chinese, saying the decision to avoid supplies from Xinjiang was necessary to comply with U.S. law and not a statement of its human rights position. “We apologize for the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public. Intel is committed to becoming a trusted technology partner and accelerating joint development with China,” the company wrote. White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not comment directly on Intel’s apology but said that “American companies should never feel the need to apologize for standing up for fundamental human rights or opposing repression.” “We call on all industries to ensure that they are not sourcing products that involve forced labor, including forced labor from Xinjiang,” she added. Last week, the Commerce Department imposed trade restrictions on 30 Chinese research institutes. The Treasury Department announced sanctions on eight Chinese tech entities over human rights violations. The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., dismissed U.S. claims as “totally groundless.” “The United States has been making excuses to suppress and contain certain foreign companies and research institutions by applying measures such as export control,” embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said in a statement provided to CNBC. Earlier this month, the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.” Governments, civil society groups and United Nations officials have previously expressed concern over Beijing’s harsh measures of repressing those who criticize the Chinese Communist Party.

China violating human rights, need to suffer economic penalties

Michael Posner, 12-15, 21, Forbes, Business And Human Rights: Looking Ahead To The Challenges Of 2022,

The Chinese government continued to undermine human rights in 2021, as illustrated by its roll-back of democratic guarantees in Hong Kong and mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Corporations need to assess more thoroughly whether elements of their operations are directly contributing to human rights violations , and if they are, reform or suspend those operations as swiftly as possible. Many global businesses have significant business interests in China, reflecting the country’s rising economic power, both as a manufacturing hub and a massive market for goods and services. In order to do business there, companies need to navigate a stifling environment where Chinese government officials are increasingly intolerant of companies or others who dare challenge government conduct. This hostility to criticism is likely to be on full display in the run up to the February 2022 Winter Olympic games in Beijing. The governments of the U.S. and several other countries have recently announced that they will not send diplomatic delegations to the Winter Olympics, a response to the serious, ongoing human rights abuses. Companies and investors should send a similar message to China’s leadership. The commitments a number of Western apparel companies have made to seek alternatives to Xinjiang cotton are one example. 

The US has imposed many sanctions to protect human rights

Scott Johnson, Human Rights Watch, 12-13, 21,, Human Rights First’s coalition drove almost half of Global Magnitsky designations on corruption and human rights abuses

WASHINGTON – In connection with its Summit for Democracy, the United States government last Friday concluded a week of action on targeted human rights and anti-corruption sanctions. Human Rights First welcomes the significant number of sanctions that the U.S. government announced, and the extent to which those sanctions reflect recommendations from civil society activists and cover a growing range of situations. “Many of the sanctions the U.S. government imposed last week reflect the courageous work and insightful advocacy of activists who have pursued targeted sanctions as a means to change the narrative of impunity,” said Scott Johnston, Human Rights First’s Staff Attorney for Human Rights Accountability. “The sanctions also show that the U.S. government can and should use these tools to seek accountability for acts committed by its partners as well as its adversaries.” Key facts about the sanctions include: Under multiple U.S. sanctions authorities, the U.S. government last week imposed 151 total targeted sanctions: 55 for human rights abusers and 96 for acts of corruption, a significant increase over the designations during the same end-of-year period in 2020 or 2019. Under both the Global Magnitsky and 7031(c) programs, 42% of all designations have a basis in recommendations submitted by members of the targeted human rights and anti-corruption sanctions coalition that Human Rights First coordinates (33 out of 78 under Global Magnitsky and 17 out of 40 under 7031(c). These sanctions address abuse and corruption in countries with which the U.S. government has hostile relations (e.g., Burma, Iran, and Syria), but also some with which it has a closer partnership (e.g., Angola, Bangladesh, and Uganda). “We are absolutely thrilled [with these sanctions], and this will not only be a huge morale boost to everyday people here, but it shows those in power that they cannot abuse their positions without there being consequences,” said Florindo Chivucute, executive director of Friends of Angola and a member of Human Rights First’s targeted sanctions coalition. “In the future, others will see [these sanctions] and be less likely to perpetrate similar crimes, and civil society will feel more empowered to oppose them if they do.” Human Rights First expressed disappointment that other governments with similar sanctions programs have been less responsive to calls from civil society. Canada and the United Kingdom last week joined the United States in sanctioning more abusive actors in Burma, for example, but not bad actors in other nations. “The strong partnership that continues to develop between civil society and the U.S. government on these targeted sanctions programs should serve as a model for Canada, the EU and the UK to follow, as well as Australia as it develops its new sanctions program,” Johnston said.

US imposing technology export restrictions to prevent authoritarian repression with technology

The White House, 12-10, 21, Fact Sheet: Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative Launched at the Summit for Democracy,

As part of its commitment to put human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken meaningful action to curb the proliferation of technology that has been misused by governments for repression. Today at the Summit for Democracy, the United States, Australia, Denmark and Norway announced the Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative to help stem the tide of authoritarian government misuse of technology and promote a positive vision for technologies anchored by democratic values. Read the joint statement here. We were joined in support by Canada, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Too often, cyber intrusion, surveillance, and other dual-use technologies are misused to stifle dissent; harass human rights defenders; intimidate minority communities; discourage whistle-blowers; chill free expression; target political opponents, journalists, and lawyers; or interfere arbitrarily or unlawfully with privacy. The Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative will seek to address this challenge by: Working to develop a voluntary written code of conduct intended to guide the application of human rights criteria to export licensing policy and practice. Building policy alignment with likeminded partners that leads to common action, and concrete and practical outcomes. Bringing together policy makers, technical experts, and export control and human rights practitioners to ensure that critical and emerging technologies work for, and not against, democratic societies. During the Summit for Democracy’s Year of Action, we will shape this Initiative collaboratively with our partners and explore how best to strengthen domestic legal frameworks; share information on threats and risks; share, develop and implement best practices; and improve others’ capacity to do the same. Over the coming year, we will also engage in further coordination with other governments, as well as consult with industry and academia. The United States is also working with allies and partners to reinforce our democratic values and our democratic institutions in key emerging technology areas: Quad leaders launched a statement of principles on technology, along with new efforts that together will advance critical and emerging technologies shaped by our shared democratic values and respect for human rights. Through the Trade and Technology Council, the United States and European Union determined shared principles and areas for export control cooperation, including capacity building assistance to third countries to support multilateral export control regimes, prior consultations on current and upcoming legislative and regulatory developments, and developing convergent control approaches on sensitive dual-use technologies. An additional working group is addressing the misuse of technology threatening human rights. We’ve launched new bilateral cooperative partnerships on critical and emerging technologies with both Japan and the Republic of Korea. These efforts build on steps the United States has already taken to stem the misuse of technology to abuse human rights: In July, the United States Government added to the Commerce Department’s Entity List entities located in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that have been enabling human rights abuses against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, where the PRC continues to commit genocide. This action prevents the entities from gaining access to U.S. technology. Similarly, following the coup in Burma earlier this year, the United States Government added companies and ministries controlled by the Burmese military to the Entity List. In mid-October, the United States Government released an interim final rule establishing controls on the export, re-export, or transfer of certain items used for malicious cyber activities. The proposed rule will target custom-made hacking tools, which have legitimate law enforcement and intelligence applications, but which have also been misused. In early November, the United States Government added four foreign companies to the Entity List to stem the proliferation and misuse of tools used for repression: NSO Group and Candiru of Israel were designated for their development and supply of spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers. Additionally, Russia’s Positive Technologies and Singapore’s Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE (COSEINC) were designated for misusing and trafficking cyber tools that were used to gain unauthorized access to information systems in ways that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy of the United States and threatened the privacy and security of individuals and organizations worldwide.

International economic network of autocrats renders sanctions meaningless

Ann Applebaum, November 15, 2021, Anne Applebaum is a staff writer at The Atlantic, a fellow at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and the author of Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, The Atlantic, The Bad Guys are Winning,

All of us have in our minds a cartoon image of what an autocratic state looks like. There is a bad man at the top. He controls the police. The police threaten the people with violence. There are evil collaborators, and maybe some brave dissidents. But in the 21st century, that cartoon bears little resemblance to reality. Nowadays, autocracies are run not by one bad guy, but by sophisticated networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, security services (military, police, paramilitary groups, surveillance), and professional propagandists. The members of these networks are connected not only within a given country, but among many countries. The corrupt, state-controlled companies in one dictatorship do business with corrupt, state-controlled companies in another. The police in one country can arm, equip, and train the police in another. The propagandists share resources—the troll farms that promote one dictator’s propaganda can also be used to promote the propaganda of another—and themes, pounding home the same messages about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America. This is not to say that there is some supersecret room where bad guys meet, as in a James Bond movie. Nor does the new autocratic alliance have a unifying ideology. Among modern autocrats are people who call themselves communists, nationalists, and theocrats. No one country leads this group. Washington likes to talk about Chinese influence, but what really bonds the members of this club is a common desire to preserve and enhance their personal power and wealth. Unlike military or political alliances from other times and places, the members of this group don’t operate like a bloc, but rather like an agglomeration of companies—call it Autocracy Inc. Their links are cemented not by ideals but by deals—deals designed to take the edge off Western economic boycotts, or to make them personally rich—which is why they can operate across geographical and historical lines. Thus in theory, Belarus is an international pariah—Belarusian planes cannot land in Europe, many Belarusian goods cannot be sold in the U.S., Belarus’s shocking brutality has been criticized by many international institutions. But in practice, the country remains a respected member of Autocracy Inc. Despite Lukashenko’s flagrant flouting of international norms, despite his reaching across borders to break laws, Belarus remains the site of one of China’s largest overseas development projects. Iran has expanded its relationship with Belarus over the past year. Cuban officials have expressed their solidarity with Lukashenko at the UN, calling for an end to “foreign interference” in the country’s affairs. In theory, Venezuela, too, is an international pariah. Since 2008, the U.S. has repeatedly added more Venezuelans to personal-sanctions lists; since 2019, U.S. citizens and companies have been forbidden to do any business there. Canada, the EU, and many of Venezuela’s South American neighbors maintain sanctions on the country. And yet Nicolás Maduro’s regime receives loans as well as oil investment from Russia and China. Turkey facilitates the illicit Venezuelan gold trade. Cuba has long provided security advisers, as well as security technology, to the country’s rulers. The international narcotics trade keeps individual members of the regime well supplied with designer shoes and handbags. Leopoldo López, a onetime star of the opposition now living in exile in Spain, has observed that although Maduro’s opponents have received some foreign assistance, it’s “nothing comparable with what Maduro has received.” Like the Belarusian opposition, the Venezuelan opposition has charismatic leaders and dedicated grassroots activists who have persuaded millions of people to go out into the streets and protest. If their only enemy was the corrupt, bankrupt Venezuelan regime, they might win. But Lopez and his fellow dissidents are in fact fighting multiple autocrats, in multiple countries. Like so many other ordinary people propelled into politics by the experience of injustice—like Sviatlana and Siarhei Tsikhanouski in Belarus, like the leaders of the extraordinary Hong Kong protest movement, like the Cubans and the Iranians and the Burmese pushing for democracy in their countries—they are fighting against people who control state companies and can make investment decisions worth billions of dollars for purely political reasons. They are fighting against people who can buy sophisticated surveillance technology from China or bots from St. Petersburg. Above all, they are fighting against people who have inured themselves to the feelings and opinions of their countrymen, as well as the feelings and opinions of everybody else. Because Autocracy Inc. grants its members not only money and security, but also something less tangible and yet just as important: impunity. The leaders of the Soviet Union, the most powerful autocracy in the second half of the 20th century, cared deeply about how they were perceived around the world. They vigorously promoted the superiority of their political system and they objected when it was criticized. When the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev famously brandished his shoe at a meeting of the UN General Assembly in 1960, it was because a Filipino delegate had expressed sympathy for “the peoples of Eastern Europe and elsewhere which have been deprived of the free exercise of their civil and political rights.” Today, the most brutal members of Autocracy Inc. don’t much care if their countries are criticized, or by whom. The leaders of Myanmar don’t really have any ideology beyond nationalism, self-enrichment, and the desire to remain in power. The leaders of Iran confidently discount the views of Western infidels. The leaders of Cuba and Venezuela dismiss the statements of foreigners on the grounds that they are “imperialists.” The leaders of China have spent a decade disputing the human-rights language long used by international institutions, successfully convincing many people around the world that these “Western” concepts don’t apply to them. Russia has gone beyond merely ignoring foreign criticism to outright mocking it. After the Russian dissident Alexei Navalny was arrested earlier this year, Amnesty International designated him a “prisoner of conscience,” a venerable term that the human-rights organization has been using since the 1960s. Russian social-media trolls immediately mounted a campaign designed to draw Amnesty’s attention to 15-year-old statements by Navalny that seemed to break the group’s rules on offensive language. Amnesty took the bait and removed the title. Then, when Amnesty officials realized they’d been manipulated by trolls, they restored it. Russian state media cackled derisively. It was not a good moment for the human-rights movement. Impervious to international criticism, modern autocrats are using aggressive tactics to push back against mass protest and widespread discontent. Putin was unembarrassed to stage “elections” earlier this year in which some 9 million people were barred from being candidates, the progovernment party received five times more television coverage than all the other parties put together, television clips of officials stealing votes circulated online, and vote counts were mysteriously altered. The Burmese junta is unashamed to have murdered hundreds of protesters, including young teenagers, on the streets of Yangon. The Chinese government boasts about its destruction of the popular democracy movement in Hong Kong. At the extremes, this kind of contempt can devolve into what the international democracy activist Srdja Popovic calls the “Maduro model” of governance, which may be what Lukashenko is preparing for in Belarus. Autocrats who adopt it are “willing to pay the price of becoming a totally failed country, to see their country enter the category of failed states,” accepting economic collapse, isolation, and mass poverty if that’s what it takes to stay in power. Assad has applied the Maduro model in Syria. And it seems to be what the Taliban leadership had in mind this summer when they occupied Kabul and immediately began arresting and murdering Afghan officials and civilians. Financial collapse was looming, but they didn’t care. As one Western official working in the region told the Financial Times, “They assume that any money that the west doesn’t give them will be replaced by China, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia.” And if the money doesn’t come, so what? Their goal is not a flourishing, prosperous Afghanistan, but an Afghanistan where they are in charge.