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U.S. Sanctions Myanmar General, Others Over Rights Abuses

By Susan Heavey and Arshad Mohammed
December 21, 2017

WASHINGTON -- The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on 52 people and entities for alleged human rights violations and corruption, including Myanmar general Maung Maung Soe, who oversaw a brutal crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Others hit with sanctions included Benjamin Bol Mel, who has served as an adviser to South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh, and Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, a friend of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, the U.S. 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," the department said.

Maung Maung Soe was in charge of the operation that drove more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee mostly Buddhist Myanmar to Bangladesh. The Myanmar army has previously issued a report denying all allegations of rape and killings by security forces.

The Myanmar government spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the latest U.S. sanctions.

"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," U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

The sanctions are the first imposed under a U.S. law called the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was enacted last year.

The U.S. action freezes any assets the sanctioned individuals and entities may hold under U.S. jurisdiction and blocks Americans from dealing with them, which a senior U.S. official said has the practical effect of largely cutting them off from the global financial system.

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

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Arshad Mohammed; Additional reporting by Antoni Slowdowski in Yangon and by Aaron Ross in Dakar; Writing by Arshad Mohammed and Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham)

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