Tools of Trade: U.S. Sanctions Regimes and Human Rights Accountability Strategies

Sanctions represent an essential part of the U.S. foreign policy toolkit, yet human rights practitioners and advocates often lack the essential understanding of how they work.

In this paper, “Tools of Trade: U.S. Sanctions Regimes and Human Rights Accountability Strategies,” the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable and Enough Project lay out the essential elements of how sanctions programs are created, implemented, and enforced. Specifically, the paper details of the legal authorities underlying sanctions, the agencies involved, and the approaches to implementation that have proved most effective.

The paper then moves from sanctions architecture to analysis and strategy. As sanctions become an increasingly important tool for policymakers, human rights advocates must understand the newer approaches developed in recent years. Sanctions no longer focus on comprehensive trade embargoes, which prohibit almost all transactions with individuals in the targeted country, but rather operate through innovative targeting strategies and enhanced enforcement.

Specifically, the paper discusses the following sanctions programs or mechanisms that can be leveraged to promote human rights abroad:

  1.  Imposing targeted designations through existing country programs;
  2.  Targeting international actors responsible for corruption or serious human rights violations using Executive Order 13818, “Global Magnitsky” program;
  3.  Leveraging sectoral and secondary sanctions for human rights objectives; and
  4.  Using sanctions authorities to increase transparency requirements for businesses engaged in areas with specific human rights risks.

The full paper can be downloaded here.

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