Written evidence submitted by TASSC International (IEF0012)
- This submission is made in response to the call for evidence of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry into illicit and emerging finance.
- TASSC International is a Washington D.C.-based organization (www.TASSC.com) that serves survivors of torture and advocates for the elimination and prevention of torture worldwide. Since 1998, TASSC has served more than 7,000 torture survivors with case management, workforce development, counseling, legal representation and advocacy training, welcoming an average of 300 survivors each year. To advance its mission of eliminating torture worldwide, TASSC has established an International Human Rights Advocacy and Research Program. In this program, TASSC works with survivors and witnesses of serious human rights abuses, government agencies, and experts worldwide to identify and expose serious human rights violations and hold their perpetrators accountable.
- In response to the Committee’s call for evidence, the purpose of this submission is to share our understanding of the importance of Magnitsky sanctions to deter human rights abuses, TASSC’s experience in the pursuit of sanctions against perpetrators of torture in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and the important link between curbing the use of “dirty money” by international actors and the prevention of human rights violations.
- Central to TASSC International’s advocacy program is its ability to engage “citizen journalists” and human rights defenders in countries where human rights violations occur with impunity but receive scant public attention, chiefly in Africa. TASSC International provides these survivors and witnesses of torture and other brutal abuses with the opportunity to tell their stories and document their persecution in a safe and secure manner. This critical information then allows TASSC International to give voice to torture survivors and pursue justice for them.
THE LINK BETWEEN DIRTY MONEY AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
- TASSC is well aware that human rights abuses and government corruption go hand in hand, as the horrific crisis in Ukraine so dramatically and tragically demonstrates. It is all too common for evil officials to gain power through corrupt financial practices, derive immense benefit from dirty money for themselves and their cronies, and then turn to repression and violence to maintain their hold on that power and wealth.
- As the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has observed, “Corruption can have a devasting impact on human rights-related goods and services . . . undermin[ing] the functioning and legitimacy of institutions and processes, the rule of law and ultimately the State itself.” Affirming that “[c]orruption can severely impact a broad range of human rights,” the respected human rights organization Human Rights Watch catalogued the “close links” between corruption and human rights abuses to include: the diversion of intended funding for basic human services into corrupt hands; the undermining of essential government functions and institutions, judicial independence, freedom of expression and other freedoms; and “attacks on civil society and journalists,” and the punishment of critics “to shield corrupt officials.”
TASSC’S EFFORTS TO SECURE SANCTIONS TO PREVENT HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN THE UK, US AND EU
- In today’s international community, the chief means for holding the worst human rights violators accountable is through government sanctions. For such sanctions to have significant effect, they must involve cooperation among multiple nations where dictators and their cronies tend to locate their assets. Thus, as TASSC International has increased its pursuit of sanctions, it has expanded beyond referrals to the United States government through the Global Magnitsky Act, to also seek sanctions in the United Kingdom and the European Union.
- TASSC’s work to end torture in Uganda is our prime example of this redoubled effort. TASSC has engaged the U.S. Departments of State and the Treasury in multiple efforts to hold Uganda’s most brutal high-ranking officials accountable for widespread torture, enforced disappearances, killings, and extended imprisonment in inhuman conditions. We were reassured when the U.S. government has now twice sanctioned Ugandan officials under the Global Magnitsky Act and also imposed visa restrictions on human rights abusers there.
- More recently, with the invaluable guidance and support of REDRESS, TASSC International filed sanctions requests with the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), as well as the European Union. TASSC International was able to marshal overwhelming evidence of brutal abuses by government security forces from worldwide human rights organizations and the international press, as well as direct,detailed testimony of human rights violations through interviews with regime opposition leaders, authors, and more than a dozen ordinary citizens. We look forward to hearing soon of a decision by the FCDO to hold these human rights violators accountable for their actions.
- In many cases where sanctions are adopted, we have seen positive feedback from human rights defenders and torture survivors on the impact that the measures had on their country’s human rights environment. Those sanctioned may publicly try to minimize the sanctions, but TASSC International believes that they and their cronies will surely be deterred for engaging in corruption or torture.
ENHANCING THE EFFECTIVE USE OF SANCTIONS IN THE UK
- TASSC’s expertise is in identifying and exposing human rights violations through engagement with victims; as a small human rights organization, we simply do not have the expertise and resources to analyze the financial resources, especially hidden dirty money, of the officials whose human rights violations we pursue. Nonetheless, we are well aware anecdotally how their human rights violations and corrupt practices are intertwined. As such, the issuance of sanctions against international wrongdoers-- whether based on anti-corruption or human rights grounds--will advance both critical causes.
- For these reasons, TASSC applauds the Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the use of the UK’s Magnitsky sanctions. We respectfully ask the Committee to take measures to ensure that the FCDO has the increased resources to vigorously and effectively pursue sanctions against both corrupt actors and human rights violators. Finally, TASSC wishes to express its appreciation for the opportunity to provide the Committee with this testimony and, more broadly, to the UK government for its commitment to hold officials who violate international norms accountable for their actions. Thank you very much.
For more information, please contact JoAnn Grozuczak Goedert, Legal and Advocacy Counsel at TASSC International, 4121 Harewood Drive, Washington DC 20017, (firstname.lastname@example.org).
11 March 2022
Human Rights Watch, “Human Rights Submission to UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Feb. 21, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/02/21/human-rights-watch-submission-un-working-group-business-and-human-rights).