Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)

GloMag Sanctions Database: Baseline Data on Human Rights Sanctions

Baseline Data on Human Rights Sanctions

In November 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on 17 security and government officials in Saudi Arabia for their role in the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The high-profile sanctions grabbed international headlines because of the novel use of sanctions in response to the heinous crime. The United States was sending a message about accountability by imposing sanctions on Khashoggi’s killers and, just months before, a surprising mix of other human rights abusers: the former president of The Gambia, a congressman in Guatemala, and even a surgeon in Pakistan.

The background of these human rights abusers differ but what ties them together is how the United States sanctioned them. These sanctions were all enacted under the Global Magnitsky Act (GloMag) as part of a broader effort by the United States government to use targeted sanctions to promote accountability for human rights abuse and corruption across the world. From its introduction under Executive Order (E.O.) 13818 in December 2017 through the end of 2022, the first-of-its-kind global sanctions regime has led the Department of the Treasury to designate 202 individuals and 250 entities. 

In recent decades, policymakers have increasingly favored the use of targeted sanctions as a means to condemn certain behaviors without inflicting the widespread civilian harm associated with conventional, country-wide sanctions. The formation of the GloMag sanctions regime follows this trend in the use of targeted sanctions as the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury pursue innovative ways to respond to foreign policy priorities.

But due to GloMag’s relatively recent emergence and the novelty of it as a tool of economic statecraft, few scholars or policymakers have closely scrutinized its underlying rationale and implementation. To fill the void in research and available data, CHRHS created the GloMag Sanctions Database (GSD) as a starting point for analysis. CHRHS developed the GSD to make available a sortable tool to help researchers study the use of sanctions for human rights abuses and corruption. By consolidating this data into a centralized and easily accessible platform, CHRHS aims to help researchers collate designations, uncover trends in the traits of designees, and study why and how GloMag has been deployed.

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