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U.S. sanctions S. Sudan official, 51 others over corruption and human rights violations

December 21, 2017 (WASHINGTON) - The United States government on Thursday imposed sanctions on a South Sudanese official and 51 other people for alleged involvement in corruption and human rights violations.

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Benjamin Bol Mel (Gurtong photo)

The U.S. Department of Treasury announced sanctions against Benjamin Bol Mel and three of his entities relating to the implementation of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

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.

“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,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

The U.S. reportedly took action against Mel for his role and that of his business network, in “facilitating corruption”. A close associate of President Salva Kiir, Mel has allegedly used his high-level connections to regularly engage in large-scale government contracts worth millions of dollars for construction work that was not completed.

A report with additional details Mel’s acts of corruption will be submitted to the Federal Register, the U.S. embassy in Juba stated.

“While much of South Sudan’s population suffers from violence and hunger, a small coterie of elites continues to enrich itself. Acts of corruption undermine the values that form the essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals, weaken democratic institutions, degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts, facilitate the activities of other dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets,” partly reads a statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Juba on Friday.

It further stressed in the statement, “The people of South Sudan have had to endure conflict and the humanitarian catastrophe it brings”.

The U.S. vowed to take additional action against those who profit from this catastrophe, including those who facilitate the actions of corrupt officials.

The sanctions are the first imposed under a U.S. law called the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was enacted in 2016.

Sanctions also affected Israeli tycoon, Dan Gertler and his companies, Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of ex-Uzbekistan leader Islam Karimov and Myanmar military general, Maung Maung Soe, among others.