At the end of January the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act was introduced in the United States’ Senate (S.284) and House of Representatives (H.R.624). The bill builds upon the success of the Magnitsky Act and allows the president to create a list of people who are responsible for significant corruption, extrajudicial killings, torture, and other gross human rights abuses. People on the list will be banned from the United States and have their financial assets in the United States frozen. Human rights organizations have welcomed the groundbreaking legislation.
If the Global Magnitsky Act passes the President could impose targeted sanctions for Chinese officials responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, and other human rights abuses in Tibet. For over a year, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has called on States to impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for crimes against humanity in Tibet. In the 2013 report, Ending Impunity: Crimes Against Humanity in Tibet, TCHRD recommended that the international community impose travel bans and freeze the assets of Chinese officials that implemented crimes against humanity, including torture and murder, in Tibet. Since the report was released, the torture and killing of Tibetans has only escalated. These are still part of a systematic attack on Tibetan activists and human rights defenders. For example, Bachen Gyewa’s arrest and execution were ordered by CCP officials in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
The Global Magnitsky Act relies on two premises. The first is that the commission of torture, extra-judicial killing, and gross human rights abuses, including crimes against humanity, are matters of international concern. Regardless of where they occur, the international community has a responsibility to protect threatened people if the home country cannot or will not. This understanding of sovereignty has been endorsed by the international community, including the People’s Republic of China.
Second, the Global Magnitsky Act recognizes that entry to the United States and access to its financial institutions is a privilege that can be denied to people responsible for, among other things, crimes against humanity. Doing this is an exercise of US sovereignty and not a violation another State’s sovereignty. Particularly when it comes to torture and crimes against humanity, which are always prohibited by international law, the United States has a responsibility to ensure that the perpetrators do not enjoy impunity. Ending impunity is in the United States and international community’s interests and reflects important values of promoting and protecting human rights.
Passing the Global Magnitsky Act would be a first step toward enacting the sanctions against Chinese officials proposed in TCHRD’s report. It would also be an opportunity for the United States to lead the international community in protecting human rights advocates and activists. The United States has been a global leader in imposing targeted sanctions on Russian officials for human rights abuses and the situation in Ukraine. Now is the time to apply those same protections to Tibet and the rest of the world.
The bill must be approved by the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee before the Senate and House of Representatives vote on the bill. If the House of Representatives pass identical versions it will be sent to the president to be signed into law.
The Global Magnitsky Act was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland. It was co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee from Arizona, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, Sen. Dick Durbin, the second highest ranking Democrat in the Senate from Illinois, Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut. In the House of Representatives, the bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, and co-sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts.
The full text of Ending Impunity report is available here.