US sanctions dozens of people worldwide over human rights abuses

WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday (Dec 8) slapped sanctions on dozens of people over human rights abuses, including Iranian officers it accused of being involved in the targeting of US officials, ahead of Human Rights Day on Sunday (Dec 11).

The US Treasury and State Departments imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on 37 people in 13 countries, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, in actions coordinated with Britain and Canada.

Over the last year the Treasury has sanctioned more than 150 individuals and entities across a dozen countries, freezing their US assets, for issues relating to human rights abuse. Americans who engage in certain transactions with them also risk being hit with sanctions.

Two Iranian intelligence officers who recruited people for US operations are listed, the Treasury Department said in a statement. Their mission included the lethal targeting of current and former US government officials as revenge for the 2020 killing of Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani.

The officers, Majid Dastjani Farahani and Mohammad Mahdi Khanpour Ardestani, also recruited people for surveillance activities focused on religious sites, businesses and other facilities in the United States, Treasury added.

Iran promised vengeance after a US air strike in Baghdad killed Soleimani, Tehran’s most prominent military commander and the architect of its growing influence in the Middle East.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taliban members were sanctioned for their links to the repression of women and girls. These include the minister for the so-called Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice that the Treasury said has engaged in killings, abductions, whippings and beatings.

The Taliban administration spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Two mid-level Chinese officials were cited for their connection to “ongoing serious human rights abuse in Xinjiang”, the western Chinese region where the US says authorities are committing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.

The officials are Gao Qi, a Xinjiang public security official; and Hu Lianhe, the deputy office director for the Xinjiang Work Coordination Small Group of the Central Committee, which helped design policies for what Washington calls internment camps in the region.

Chinese embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said the sanctions were illegal.

“Such acts grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs, flagrantly violate the basic norms governing international relations and seriously undermine China-US relations. China firmly opposes and strongly condemns them,” he said.

The United States on Friday also restricted imports from three more Chinese companies, including COFCO Sugar Holding, over forced labour practices involving Uyghurs and other minorities in China, the US government said on Friday.


“Our commitment to upholding and defending human rights is sacrosanct,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in the statement.

“Treasury’s targeted sanctions announced today and over the past year underscore the seriousness of our commitment to promoting accountability for human rights abuse and safeguarding the US financial system from those who commit these egregious acts.”

Also sanctioned are leaders of the Islamic State in Democratic Republic of Congo, the heads of four criminal gangs in Haiti, and the Commissioner General of the Uganda Prisons Service, which Treasury said has engaged in torture and others serious human rights abuse including of LGBTQ community members.

Uganda enacted one of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws in May, which calls for the death penalty for certain same-sex acts.

Washington also targeted people in Liberia, South Sudan, Uganda and Central African Republic.

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EU to issue firm words at China summit with limited expectations

BRUSSELS: In a summit with Chinese leaders on Thursday ( Dec. 7 ) that is anticipated to be long on firm words but short on results, top EU officials will bring up an array of concerns, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to trade irritants.

On their one-day trip to Beijing, Premier Li Qiang and Chinese President Xi Jinping are met by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, and Josep Borrell, head of the EU’s international policy.

The talks on Thursday may not result in a joint statement, according to EU officials, and the first in-person EU-China conference since 2019 is not expected to produce any significant results.

Never a single exceptional project will be the summit’s crowning achievement, according to one EU official.

Contrarily, Xi and US President Joe Biden did reach agreements during their November gathering in California, though there were still some unresolved issues, especially those pertaining to Taiwan.

Although the European Union will also be concerned about Chinese objectives toward Taiwan, its main concern will become Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union wants Beijing to use its clout to halt the conflict, emphasize the need for Russia to adhere to punishment, and bring up the growing Northern Korean-Russian arms trade.

The alliance also worries about what it views as “imbalanced” economic ties, claiming that its trade deficit with China, which is close to €400 billion, is due to limitations on International businesses.

China may be expected to inquire about an EU anti-subsidy exploration into Chinese electric vehicles as well as the EU’s “de-risking” policy to lessen its reliance on Chinese exports, especially of essential raw materials.

According to EU leaders, the two sides could work together more on efforts to combat climate change and advance wildlife.

They even make reference to a series of discussions organized around business and macroeconomics. The round business, which could increase the number of food products whose names may be protected, as well as the EU’s proposed import tariff on CO2 emissions, are two examples. For example, the term “feta” could only be used to describe a particular Greek cheese.

According to an EU official, although these are not necessarily significant summit deliverables, there are some areas where working theoretically and practically together can help us make a difference.

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Netherlands returns colonial-era artefacts to Sri Lanka

COLOMBO: As part of efforts by the former colonial power to right historical wrongs, the Netherlands returned six artifacts on Tuesday ( Dec 5 ) that were taken from Sri Lanka more than 250 years ago. These items included a cannon, ceremonial sword, and two guns. Following the French government’sContinue Reading