U.S. Embassy Gives Sanctioned Officials a Lifeline?

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US Embassy officials near Monrovia appear to have given sanctioned Liberian government officials a lifeline here ahead of the 2023 general and presidential elections.

There are rumors that Liberian officials sanctioned here should not be allowed to participate in the next election, as it would force the United States to withdraw its support for the National Election Commission if any of the affected people appear on the ballots.

But US embassy officials here say the Global Magnitsky Act by which 3 former Weah government officials were sanctioned and two senators is not above the country’s judiciary and therefore cannot undermine any laws or legal system of Liberia.

Two US Embassy officials, Mr. Sean Boda and Kemper Wagner, Public Affairs Officer and Political Affairs Officer, respectively, made the clarification during their appearance on a live radio talk show on Tuesday, October 4. 2022.

The two foreign diplomats appeared on OK FM to talk about issues regarding sanctions and their implications on those affected, and the Magnitsky Act in the judicial system of sovereign states like Liberia.

Recently, three Weah administration officials, former State and Presidential Secretary Nathaniel McGill, NPA Director General Bill Tweahway, and Solicitor General Cyrenius Cephus were named under the Global Magnitsky Act.

The trio quit after weeks of calls to do so, with speculation they intended to contest the next election.

Speculation about their intention to run in the 2023 elections in their respective counties sparked rumors that the United States Embassy had issued a warning against their desire to run for office.

However, during Tuesday’s broadcast, Embassy officials noted, “So the Global Magnitsky Act is not a lawsuit, it’s not a tribunal, and it’s not a vehicle for United States of America to try to intervene and usurp the rights of any sovereign state of its own criminal proceedings. And so, in democracies like Liberia, there are various mechanisms for citizens to hold government officials accountable, which is important.

“As a sovereign nation, Liberia has every right to determine who is eligible to contest elections; the United States is not innocent of the process. The Magnitsky Act has nothing to do with your elections,” said Sean Boda, the US public affairs officer.

Responding to a question about what the US government looks for in a country before imposing sanctions on government officials, Wagner said corruption was a key indicator because it is part of the main focus of the US government, including developing embezzlement of state resources for personal gain, looting of public funds, use of official functions to enrich themselves.

“Besides corruption, gross human rights violations are also taken into account, including extrajudicial executions, repression of opposition figures, election rigging, denial of the rule of law and freedom of the press, etc.”, he said.

Both men dodged the question by talking specifically about information that triggered sanctions against government officials, such as the recent sanctions imposed on three former government officials.

“It has always been rigorous. It takes a lot of time and resources, sometimes up to a year or three or so to investigate and submit a report before sanctions are imposed,” Boda said.

Boda further explained that the sanction begins to take effect immediately when it is issued against the person and the various government institutions responsible for enforcing compliance come into action, which includes the seizure or freezing of assets belonging to the persons. sanctioned.

He also said that in the event that the official concerned does not have assets within the territorial limits of the United States but in other countries, the partners of the United States will act as is the case of the United States. United to seize the assets or take other unspecified action. to ensure that the individual charged receives the full sentence as prescribed by the ACT.

“The idea behind the sanction is to induce a change in behavior, to help bring about a change in behavior, as in the case of Liberia, it is to have a country free from corruption and to allow the process democratic freedom to continue,” Boda said.

When asked if the U.S. government kept control over those under sanction to ensure full compliance, Wagner said it was clear that the U.S. had a vested interest in every decision made regarding the sanction and ensure compliance, such as seizure or freezing of assets, denial of visas, but if true accountability is to be held, then “the citizens of that country or the government can take action against the sanctioned person through the court system to hold the person accountable for all acts committed that triggered the sanctions.

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