The Canadian government used a powerful new legal weapon — The Magnitsky Act — for the first time Friday, slapping sanctions on three South Sudanese figures and individuals from other countries.
While Canada has always had discretionary powers to sanction any government it sees fit, the Magnitsky Act goes further, giving the government powers to freeze assets owned by individuals, if the government believes them to be involved in corruption, money laundering and rights abuses in their own countries.
Three South Sudanese figures, blamed by the international community for their part in the violence that has wracked the country since it achieved independence in 2011, are in the Liberal government’s crosshairs. They are former chief of staff of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army Paul Malong Awan, deputy defence chief Malek Reuben Riak Reng, and Minister of Information and Broadcasting Michael Makuei Lueth.
Lueth is accused for using the country’s airwaves to foment ethnic violence, as well as planning an attack on UN peacekeepers.
All three men were already targeted for sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department in September.
“These individuals are responsible for, or complicit in, gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, have committed acts of significant corruption, or both,” said an official from Global Affairs Canada in a note explaining the sanctions.
The three add to two other South Sudanese generals who were sanctioned by Canada. In 2014 the Canadian government sanctioned rebel General Peter Gadet and SPLA’s Ground Force Commander General Marial Chanuong.