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The 2019 International Humans Rights Day brought with it messages of hope, calls to action and economic sanction. Celebrated each year on December 10, the day marks the anniversary of the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Human rights and equality are indispensable to human dignity but must be fought for at times, said Judy Perry Martinez, president of the American Bar Association (ABA). “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which sparked the modern LGBTQ equality movement that in recent years has won major gains in the United States. Through the grit and determination of individuals who care about equality and dignity asserting their rights in America’s robust democratic institutions, struggles became victories.”

Martinez said some of the critical tenets of the day include freedom of the press, an independent judiciary and protecting the rule of law. The ABA, she said, will continue to fight for “diverse and vulnerable populations in America and around the world,” including immigrants, the homeless, those with disabilities and sexual and domestic violence victims.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a milestone document delineating “inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,” according to the U.N.

Martinez noted a number of budding democracies are fighting against leadership intent on weakening the judicial system, jailing journalists and disparaging minority populations. As such, she called on legal professionals across the globe to recommit to dignity and equality on the annual advocacy day.

The U.N., this year, also gave special recognition to the rights of children, and highlighted the power of the youth as an agent of action. “The campaign, led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is designed to encourage, galvanise, and showcase how youth all over the world stand up for rights and against racism, hate speech, bullying, discrimination, and climate change, to name a few,” according to the U.N.

U.S. Takes Aim at Human Rights Violators on International Humans Rights Day

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced action against 18 individuals in Libya, South Sudan, Slovakia, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burma on International Human Rights Day. OFAC cited Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which relates to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and deals with individuals who are deemed serious human rights abusers, according to the Department of the Treasury.

“The United States will not tolerate torture, kidnapping, sexual violence, murder, or brutality against innocent civilians,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin in a statement. “America is the world leader in combatting human rights abuse and we will hold perpetrators and enablers accountable wherever they operate.”

As a result of the sanctions, the property and interests in property of those named, as well as entities they have ownership interests in that are in the U.S., or are under the control of someone in the U.S., are “blocked and must be reported to OFAC.”

“Treasury’s action focuses on those who have killed, or ordered the killing of innocents who stood up for human rights including journalists, opposition members, and lawyers,” said Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich in a statement.

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