The United States strengthened its sanctions against several senior officials of Myanmar military, including its commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, over the mass  killings of minority Rohingya people as the country was trying to defend itself against genocide charges before the top UN court.

US ambassador Earl Miller on Wednesday informed the Bangladesh government about imposition of further sanctions on Myanmar military officials.

‘The Departments of State and Treasury announced (on December 10) the imposition of financial sanctions under the Global Magnitsky program on four top current and former Burmese military leaders for their role in serious human rights abuses,’ Miller said in a statement made to journalists after a meeting with foreign minister AK Abdul Momen. ‘This action builds on recent designations made in July and imposes targeted financial sanctions on these four senior military leaders.’  

This brings to nine the number of Burmese security force members, plus two units, who have been sanctioned by the United States since 2017 for serious human rights abuses,’ he added.

 The United States in July banned Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing from visiting the country, but Tuesday’s move goes further by freezing any US assets and criminalising financial transactions with him by anyone in the United States, according to Agence France-Presse.

The US Department of Treasury imposed the same sanctions on three other senior Myanmar commanders, as well as 14 individuals from other countries.

‘The United States will not tolerate torture, kidnapping, sexual violence, murder or brutality against innocent civilians,’ treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Myanmar military is accused of leading a brutal campaign in 2017 in Rakhine state against the Rohingyas, a mostly Muslim minority whom the Buddhist-dominated nation does not consider citizens.

About 740,000 Rohingyas fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after a bloody crackdown by the Myanmar military in 2017 that UN investigators already described as genocide.

The United States said there were ‘credible reports’ of mass-scale rape and other sexual violence by soldiers under the command of Min Aung Hlaing.

The latest US action came as Myanmar defends itself before the International Court of Justice in The Hague over charges it violated the 1948 genocide convention.

Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose reticence on the Rohingya killings has severely tarnished her once iconic image in the West, is leading the defence in the case brought by Muslim-majority Gambia.

The United States also took action against a notorious militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Allied Democratic Forces, which is accused of massacring civilians in an apparent bid to stop them from joining the military.

The Treasury Department slapped sanctions on the group’s leader, Musa Baluku, as well as five other people accused of supporting the group.

The US also imposed sanctions on five people over abuses in war-torn South Sudan, a Pakistani police superintendent accused of killing people in staged encounters, and a militia commander in Libya.

The Treasury Department also designated one European — Slovak businessman Marian Kocner, who is accused of ordering the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, who was probing high-level graft.

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