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@StateDept Publishes Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act Report

Posted: 4:41 am ET

 

The State Department published the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act Report on June 20. The Act enacted on December 23, 2016, authorizes the President to impose financial sanctions and visa restrictions on foreign persons in response to certain human rights violations and acts of corruption.

According to the notice, the President approved the report on April 21, 2017.  The report required per Pub. L. 114-328, Subtitle F details (1) U.S. government actions to administer the Act and (2) efforts to encourage the governments of other countries to impose sanctions that are similar to the sanctions authorized by Section 1263 of the Act.

Under Sanctions, the report notes:

“Although no financial sanctions were imposed under the Act during the 120 days since its enactment, the United States is actively seeking to identify persons to whom this Act may apply and collecting the necessary evidence to impose sanctions.”

Under Visa Sanctions, the report notes:

“Although no visa sanctions were imposed under the Act during the 120 days since its enactment, the Department of State is continuously reviewing available information in order to take appropriate actions with respect to visa ineligibilities.”

Under Termination of Sanctions, the report notes:

“No sanctions imposed under the Act were terminated in the 120 days since its enactment.”

The report also notes the following:

“With the passage of the Act, the United States now has a specific authority to identify and hold accountable persons responsible for gross violations of human rights and acts of significant corruption. The global reach of this authority, combined with a judicious selection of individuals and entities, will send a powerful signal that the United States continues to seek an end to impunity with respect to human rights violations and corruption. The Administration is committed to implementing the Act to support efforts to promote human rights and fight corruption. By complementing current sanctions programs and diplomatic outreach, the Act creates an additional authority to allow the Administration to respond to crises and pursue accountability, including where country-specific sanctions programs may not exist or where the declaration of a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act may not be appropriate. With the establishment of the first dedicated global human rights and corruption sanctions program, the United States is uniquely positioned to lead the international community in pursuing accountability abroad consistent with our values.”

While no individual has been sanctioned under the act, the report lists a few examples of Treasury Department designations issued in recent years which illustrates designations that align with the Act’s focus on human rights and corruption.

Andrey Konstantinovich Lugovoy: On January 9, 2017, Russian national and member of the Russian State Duma Andrey Konstantinovich Lugovoy was designated under the Magnitsky Act, which includes a provision targeting persons responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross human rights violations committed against individuals seeking to expose illegal activity by Russian government officials. Lugovoy was responsible for the 2006 extrajudicial killing of whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko in London, with Dmitriy Kovtun (also sanctioned) acting as his agent or on his behalf. Lugovoy and Kovtun were two of five individuals designated under the Magnitsky Act on January 9, 2017.

Evariste Boshab: On December 12, 2016, Evariste Boshab was designated under E.O. 13413 (“Blocking Property of Start Printed Page 28216 Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”), as amended by E.O. 13671 (“Taking Additional Steps to Address the National Emergency With Respect to the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”), for engaging in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Boshab offered to pay DRC National Assembly members for their votes in favor of a bill to amend electoral law to delay elections and prolong President Joseph Kabila’s term beyond its constitutional limit.

Kalev Mutondo: Also on December 12, 2016, Kalev Mutondo was designated under E.O. 13413, as amended by E.O. 13671, for engaging in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the DRC. Kalev supported the extrajudicial arrest and detainment of opposition members, many of whom were reportedly tortured. Kalev also directed support for President Kabila’s “MP” political coalition using violent intimidation and government resources.

North Korean Ministry and Minister of People’s Security: On July 6, 2016, the North Korean Ministry of People’s Security was designated pursuant to E.O. 13722 (“Blocking Property of the Government of North Korea and the Workers’ Party of Korea, and Prohibiting Certain Transactions With Respect to North Korea”) for having engaged in, facilitated, or been responsible for an abuse or violation of human rights by the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea. The Ministry of People’s Security operates a network of police stations and interrogation detention centers, including labor camps, throughout North Korea. During interrogations, suspects are systematically degraded, intimidated, and tortured. The Ministry of People’s Security’s Correctional Bureau supervises labor camps (kyohwaso) and other detention facilities, where human rights abuses occur, such as torture, execution, rape, starvation, forced labor, and lack of medical care. A Department of State report issued simultaneously with these designations cites defectors who have regularly reported that the ministry uses torture and other forms of abuse to extract confessions, including techniques involving sexual violence, hanging individuals from the ceiling for extended periods of time, prolonged periods of exposure, and severe beatings. Choe Pu Il, the Minister of People’s Security, was also designated for having acted for or on behalf of the Ministry of People’s Security.

Joseph Mathias Niyonzima: On December 18, 2015, Joseph Mathias Niyonzima was designated under E.O. 13712 (“Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Burundi”) for being responsible for or complicit in or for engaging in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burundi. Niyonzima supervised and provided support to elements of the Imbonerakure pro-government militia in Burundi, a group that has been linked to the arrest and torture of individuals suspected of opposing the Nkurunziza regime. He was also involved in plans to assassinate prominent opposition leaders.

Fahd Jassem al-Freij: On May 16, 2013, Syrian Minister of Defense Fahd Jassem al-Freij was designated pursuant to, among other authorities, E.O. 13572(“Blocking Property of Certain Persons With Respect to Human Rights Abuses in Syria”) for his role in the commission of human rights abuses in Syria. During his time as Syrian Minister of Defense, the Syrian military forces wantonly and capriciously killed Syrian civilians, including through the use of summary executions and indiscriminate airstrikes against civilians. Some of these airstrikes killed civilians waiting outside of bakeries.

The report says that the United States is committed to encouraging other countries to impose sanctions that are similar to those provided for by the Act. “The Department of State actively participates in global outreach, including the G-20 Denial of Entry Experts Network, a sub-group of the G-20 Anti-Corruption Working Group, in which countries share best practices among visa and immigration experts. Through this network, the United States has encouraged other G-20 members to establish and strengthen corruption-related visa sanctions regimes.”

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Nixon and the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act

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Posted: 3:09 am ET

 

The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act turned 43 years old this week.  It moved the fiscal year from July 1 to October 1 and created the budget committees in the House and the Senate. It also established the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). But there’s one other thing that folks may have forgotten — that the Act was inspired by then President Nixon’s refusal to disburse nearly $12 billion of appropriated funds by Congress. This seems relevant under the current circumstances where Congress may appropriate more funds than the Trump Administration’s budget request for the State Department.  Although apparently, loopholes can always be found if one is skilled enough.

The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act modified the role of Congress in the federal budgetary process. It created standing budget committees in both the House and the Senate, established the Congressional Budget Office, and moved the beginning of the fiscal year from July 1 to October 1.

The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act created a set of institutional changes designed to help Congress regain power over the budget process. The Act was inspired by Richard Nixon’s refusal to disburse nearly $12 billion of congressionally-appropriated funds in 1973-74 through the executive power of impoundment, as well as more generalized fears about the budget deficit. Nixon claimed that the deficit was causing high inflation and that as a result he needed to curb government spending. To this effect, in the 1972 presidential election he called on Congress to grant the President authority to cut federal spending so as to keep the budget under control. Congress opposed Nixon’s proposal and instead sought to reform Congress’ budgetary role. In 1972 Congress created a Joint Study Committee on Budget Control which called for procedural reforms to enable Congress to examine the federal budget from an “overall point of view, together with a congressional system of deciding priorities.” Following Nixon’s impoundment Congress acted on these recommendations and in 1974 passed the Act over the President’s veto.

The Act had two main goals: (1) strengthen and centralize Congress’ budget authority; (2) reduce the President’s impoundment authority. The latter was done by drafting detailed guidelines restricting how the President can impound funds already appropriated by Congress. The former—which has proven the more significant of the two—was done through a variety of means. The Act created the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to give Congress independent economic analysis and end the Executive Branch’s monopoly on budgetary information created by the 1921 Budget and Accounting Act. It created standing budget committees in both the House and the Senate, provided for greater numbers of staff for these and other committees involved in budget decisions, and made changes in the procedure of passing a budget. The new budget committee was required to pass a ‘concurrent budget resolution’ (to be passed by Congress no later than May 15) outlining the government’s overall expenditures and receipts, based on CBO estimates. The concurrent resolution would then serve as the blueprint for the regular work of the authorizing and appropriating committees as they drafted the budget. (Via University of California)

 

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Troll and Mock: France’s Emmanuel Macron, Mexico’s Vicente Fox, Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull

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Posted: 1:29 am ET

 

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the then President of the Islamic Republic of Iran wrote an open letter to the American people in 2006, then a year later blasted President George W. Bush during a speech at the United Nations. Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez also called President Bush names — donkey and Mr. Danger on his television show, and “the devil” during the 2006 General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.  But we can’t ever remember leaders of friendly countries upfront trolling or mocking the President of the United States. Until now.  But that’s where we are.

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Trump Pulls Out of Paris Accord – Some Reactions From Around the World

Posted: 1:57 am ET
Updated to correct headline.

 

On June 1, President Trump officially announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. Below is a round-up of reactions from around the world.  We have to say that we are living in a golden age for political cartoonists. Take a look!

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Russia Seeks Return of Diplomatic Property ASAP, Get Ready For Season Finale!

Posted: 1:04 am ET

 

Last December, in response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and to a pattern of harassment of our diplomats overseas, the State Department declared persona non grata  35 Russian officials operating in the United States “who were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status.” The Department also informed the Russian Government that it would “deny Russian personnel access to two recreational compounds in the United States owned by the Russian Government.” (see USG Declares 35 Russian Officials Persona Non Grata, Imposes New Sanctions).

Last week, the Russian Embassy in D.C. tweeted that it is seeking the return of its diplomatic property ASAP.

WaPo reported on Wednesday that the Trump Administration was moving to return the Russian compounds in Maryland and New York.

Early last month, the Trump administration told the Russians that it would consider turning the properties back over to them if Moscow would lift its freeze, imposed in 2014 in retaliation for U.S. sanctions related to Ukraine, on construction of a new U.S. consulate on a certain parcel of land in St. Petersburg.

Two days later, the U.S. position changed. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a meeting in Washington that the United States had dropped any linkage between the compounds and the consulate, according to several people with knowledge of the exchanges.

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POTUS Abroad: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican, Belgium (NATO), Italy (G-7)

Posted: 11:21 pm PT

 

Saudi Arabia May 20–22

Israel May 22–23

Vatican May 24

 

Brussels May 24–25

Italy May 25–27

Bonus tweet!

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Tillerson on Trump: “I understand I have to earn his confidence every day…”

Posted: 12:54 am ET

 

Via All News:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday said that the firing of FBI Director James Comey did not shake his faith in how much independence he has, adding that he has to earn President Trump’s confidence “every day.”

“I have a great relationship with the president,” Tillerson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I understand what his objectives are,” he added. “When I’m not clear on what his objectives are, we talk about it.”

Tillerson also said he is “devoted” to helping Trump achieve his objectives.

“And I understand I have to earn his confidence every day with how I go about those affairs and how I go about conducting the State Department’s activities consistent with the direction he wants to take the country.”

When asked about his personal line between service to the president and service to the country, Tillerson said he “will never compromise” his own values.

“That’s my only line. And my values are those of the country.”

 

 

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Trump Fires FBI’s James Comey: Cartoonists Around the World React #ComeyFiring

Posted: 3:27 am ET

 

 

The following is by Tjeerd Royaards, Editorial Cartoonist and Editor-in-Chief of  from Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

This is by Maarten Wolterink@mwcartoons, cartoonist for Joop.nl, Cartoon Movement, Cartooning for Peace, also from The Netherlands:

This one is from Martin Sutovec of Slovakia via @PRI:

The following is by Rod Emmerson@rodemmerson, the Editorial Cartoonist of The New Zealand Herald:

The following is by Michael de Adder@deAdderpolitical cartoonist and author from Halifax, Nova Scotia:

The following is by Ben Jennings, @BJennings90a London based cartoonist/illustrator whose work has appeared worldwide.

This one is by Christian Adams@Adamstoon1, the multi-award winning Political Cartoonist for the London Evening Standard.

From Matt Wuerker@wuerkerthe staff cartoonist and illustrator for POLITICO.

From Ann Telnaes@AnnTelnaes, “Pushy Nasty Woman Pulitzer prize winning editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post.”

Here’s next week’s cover, “Ejected,” by Barry Blitt, who also did “Broken Windows”  via

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Trump Bombs Syria While Hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russia Demands UNSC Meeting

Posted: 4:23 am ET

 

Meanwhile in Mar-a-Lago, where President Trump is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping:

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The Last Time @StateDept Had a 27% Budget Cut, Congress Killed ACDA and USIA

Posted: 4:39 am ET

 

Reporting for the Washington Post in 1996, Thomas Lippman wrote that “The total budget for civilian international programs, the so-called 150 account, started to decline in the mid-1980s. It leveled off during the Bush administration, then resumed a downward slide in President Clinton’s first year.” He noted that “the relentless budget pressure that began in the mid-1980s accelerated with the Clinton administration’s deficit-reduction plan, forcing the closing of consulates, aid missions, libraries, cultural centers and even a few entire embassies, from Italy to Indonesia, from Antigua to Thailand” (see U.S. Diplomacy’s Presence Shrinking).

Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States defeating incumbent George H. W. Bush in 1992Warren M. Christopher was nominated Secretary of State by then President-elect Clinton in December 1992.  Christopher was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 1993, and sworn in the next day. Two months into the new administration, Secretary Christopher made his first official congressional appearance as Secretary of State before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary House Appropriations Committee to talk about redirecting American foreign policy, refocusing the aid budgets, and reforming institutions.

Secretary Christopher at that time said that “American foreign policy in the years ahead will be grounded in what President Clinton has called the three “pillars” of our national interest:  first, revitalizing our economy; second, updating our  security forces for a new era; and, third, protecting democracy as the  best means to protect our own national security while expanding the  reach of freedom, human rights, prosperity, and peace.”  He talked about Saddam Hussein, “If the lawlessness of [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein has taught us any single lesson, it is that weapons of mass destruction, especially when combined  with missile technology, can transform a petty tyrant into a threat to world peace and stability.” Secretary Christopher talked about the State Department budget, “It will be a tough budget for tough times.  It will be a flexible budget that seeks austerity, not as a hardship to be endured but as a challenge to innovate and do our job  better.  Above all, we hope that this budget will mark a transitional step to a truly focused budget that sets priorities and puts resources behind them.”

Oh, brother where are ya?

In February 1993, Secretary Christopher also sent a  message to State Department employees on the Implementation Directive on Reorganization.  Two months into the Trump Administration, and days after the OMB released Trump’s “skinny budget” we have yet to hear from Secretary Tillerson on where the State Department go from here.  We know that he supports the budget cuts for his department, and he has made no public effort of defending the funding and programs for his agency but the top diplomat of the United States still has not articulated the foreign policy priorities of this administration. If Secretary Tillerson has sent a message to his troops in Foggy Bottom, we have yet to hear about it or its contents.

The proposed FY18 budget slashes the international affairs budget by 28% or 36% with Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding factored in.  If passed by Congress, what happens to That Three-Legged Stool of American Foreign Policy?  As diplomacy and development will be hobbled by cuts, are we going to see an exponential growth in private contractors in support of DOD, diplomacy and development? Or are we going to just see staffing gaps and reduced diplomatic footprints from Algeria to Zimbabwe?

In Tillerson’s recent interview with IJR, he said about the State Department budget that “One can say it’s not going to happen in one year, and it’s not.”

He’s right.  The cuts may happen this year, and next year, and every fiscal year thereafter.  It sounds to us like an “American First” foreign policy does not see much use for diplomacy.  So we expect that the State Department budget will continue to be targeted during the entire Trump term. But if history is any indication, the decisions made today will have repercussions for our country down the road. Back in 1993, Secretary Christopher said, “when the time eventually comes to restore diplomatic relations with Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Libya, the money and personnel for those posts probably will have to come out of existing resources, officials said, thus increasing the pressure to close marginal posts elsewhere.” In 1996, the then Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) director John D. Holum warned that the agency “no longer has a U.S. technical expert assigned to the U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq.”  

With the exception of Iran, we are back in Iraq, and Somalia, and we know what happened in Libya.  We don’t grow diplomats overnight. Expertise and diplomatic muscle grow with time, with every assignment, with every challenge. What happens when the next crisis erupts in Asia? Can we just pluck diplomats and development experts from the OPM growth chamber?  Or are we going to have a civilian surge once more with diplomats lacking experience and language skills thrown into a pit and then expected to do an effective job?

Remember, do you remember?

We should note that the Democrats had control of the House and the Senate after the 1992 elections but the midterm elections in 1994 resulted in a net gain of 54 seats in the House of Representatives for the GOP, and a pickup of eight seats in the Senate. That was the Gingrich Revolution.  By the way, R.C. Hammond who previously served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich (a vocal Trump ally) is now a communications adviser for Secretary Tillerson.

WaPo reported that between 1993-1996 “the State Department has cut more than 2,000 employees and shuttered consulates in 26 foreign cities. The Agency for International Development (AID), which runs foreign aid programs, has been hit especially hard by the Republican-controlled Congress and has closed 23 missions overseas.”

In 1995, according to NYT: The U.S. ambassadors to Italy, France, Britain, Spain, the E.U., Germany, Russia and NATO reportedly got together and sent a secret cable to Secretary Christopher, signed by all of them, telling him that the “delivery system” of U.S. foreign policy was being destroyed by budget cuts. They pleaded with him to mobilize those constituencies in the U.S. that value the work of embassies, and volunteered to come to Washington to testify before Congress in their defense. The ambassadors got a polite note back from Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott, telling them he understood their concerns but that there was a new mood in Congress. There was no invitation to testify.

The State Department at that time reportedly also promoted the concept of “diplomatic readiness,” similar to military readiness, “in hopes of persuading Congress to divert some money from the defense budget into diplomacy and foreign aid — activities that, in the diplomats’ view, save money over time by reducing the need for military actions.”

More than 100 businesses, trade associations, law firms and volunteer groups did organize a “Campaign to Preserve U.S. Global Leadership” without much success.

And this despite the fact that a 1994 GAO study indicates that only 38 percent of the U.S. government personnel in embassies work for the State Department, while 36 percent work for the Pentagon, 5 percent for Justice and 3 percent for Transportation. The other 18 percent includes representatives of the Treasury, Agriculture and Commerce departments.  We don’t know what is the current breakdown of federal agencies operating overseas under the State Department umbrella but if the Trump Administration starts turning off the lights in Africa, or Asia for instance, that could also prove problematic for the Pentagon.

What a 27% budget cut looked like for the international affairs budget?

By Fall 1995, the State Department released a Q&A on the International Affairs Budget–A Sound Investment in Global Leadership.  It includes the following:

Q. Since most Americans favor reducing government spending to balance the federal budget, have the State Department and other foreign affairs  agencies done anything to cut costs?

A. Yes, the Administration has done a great deal to cut costs. We have already:

— Cut the foreign assistance budget request by 20%;

–Trimmed more than 1,100 jobs at the State Department and 600 jobs at  the U.S. Information Agency (USIA);

–Identified, for elimination by 1997, about 2,000 jobs at the U.S.  Agency for International Development (USAID);

–Decreased administrative and overhead costs by $100 million; and

–Closed, or scheduled for closing, 36 diplomatic or consular posts, 10 USIA posts, and 28 USAID missions abroad.

OVERSEAS POSTS CLOSED, 1993-96 Consulates, consulates general and State Department branch offices: Algeria Austria Australia Brazil Colombia Egypt France Germany Indonesia Italy (2) Kenya Martinique Mexico Nigeria Philippines Poland Somalia Spain Switzerland (2) Turkey Thailand (2) Venezuela Zaire Embassies Antigua and Barbuda Comoros Equatorial Guinea Seychelles Solomon Islands. AID missions Afghanistan Argentina Belize Botswana Burkina Faso Cameroon Cape Verde Caribbean region Chad Chile Costa Rica Estonia Ivory Coast Lesotho Oman Pakistan South Pacific Switzerland Thailand Togo Tunisia Uruguay Zaire (via)

According to WaPo in 1996, USAID’s overall work force “has been reduced from 11,500 to 8,700 and is heading down to 8,000. The number of full “sustainable development missions” — on-site teams promoting long-term diversified economic development — declined from 70 at the start of the administration to 30.”

That’s what a 27% budget cut inflected on the international affairs budget did in the 90’s.

By 1999, with the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) and the United States Information Agency (USIA) were both abolished and folded into the State Department.

Who ya gonna call?

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell was recently quoted saying, “America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department. Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate.”

According to the Washington Examiner, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn  apparently signaled that President Trump’s initial proposed budget “won’t dictate how the State Department gets funded.” “The president’s budget goes in the waste basket as soon as it gets here,” he said.

We should note that in the 1990s, both houses of Congress (GOP) and a White House under a Democrat worked together to slashed the State Department budget. It was not a question of how much to cut, but where to cut.  This time around, we have a Republican Congress and a Republican White House, but while the WH is gunning for these cuts, the Senate particularly, appears not to be quite on board with the slash and burn cuts.  Still, we are reminded what former Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament Stephen J. Ledogar (1990-1997) noted in his oral history (PDF) — that “Not very many people will admit this, but the administration bowing to Congress on those consolidations was part of the price that was paid by the Clinton administration to Jesse Helms in exchange for him agreeing to let the Chemical Weapons Convention go through the Senate.” 

So … while there are differences in the circumstances during the budget cuts in the 1990’s and the proposed budget cuts in the current and FY18 fiscal years, we are mindful how things can change with the right carrots.

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