Barack Obama authorizes sanctions against South Sudanese leaders

John Kerry & Barack Obama 2014-04-03 at 9.00.59 PM

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry made the case for United States, August 30, 2013 (Photo: NYT|White House)

April 3, 2014(WASHINGTON) –– The President of the United States signed on Thursday an executive order authorizing US banks to freeze assets of designated South Sudanese leaders, who are yet to be named.

Obama has granted power to his cabinet officials to identify ‘certain persons’ who are responsible for human rights abuses in South Sudan, for attacks against the UN peacekeepers, or for obstructing the peace process.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will consult with the US Treasury Secretary in making the designations. Any person designated as such would lose control over “all property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch).”

According to the executive order, the properties of designated persons would be “blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.”

This would not only freeze any savings or investments that South Sudanese leaders had in the United States, it would also effectively stop American companies or individuals from doing business with the designated South Sudanese leaders.

By the same order, Kerry is authorized to designate not only those directly involved in rights abuses or attacks on the UN, but also any leaders of groups involved in the same. This means that not just perpetrators themselves but also the commanders of perpetrators are potentially subject to the US sanctions.

The order mentions any “leader of an entity, including any government, rebel militia, or other group, that has, or whose members have, engaged in any of the activities described in subsection (a) (i).”

Among the actions described in the mentioned subsection are “attacks against United Nations missions, international security presences, or other peacekeeping operations.”

Obama states in section 8 of the order, “All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.”

He further orders immigration officers of the US Government to block entry to the United States of designated South Sudanese persons pursuant to the terms of an earlier proclamation 8693, which was a measure to enforce UN Security Council travel bans.

Obama’s directive is also designed to disrupt the personal banking and finances of any designated persons, through the global influence of the US banking sector. The order states, “Any transaction that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.”

Since US banks or financial services firms are sometimes intermediaries in fund transfers between banks or firms, even when neither the transferring nor receiving entity is in the United States, US sanctions tend to have impact beyond the borders of the United States.

Until the South Sudanese leaders are identified by name, the order will have no effect. Once designations are made, however, lists of designated persons will be kept by the US Treasury Department and enforced by its Office of Foreign Assets Control.

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