The United States on Tuesday said it had imposed sanctions on Rao Anwar, a former Pakistani police officer, for reportedly staging police encounters that resulted in the deaths of over 400 people.
A statement issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on International Human Rights Day said it was taking action against 18 individuals who had been involved in serious human rights abuses. The U.S. will freeze any U.S. assets belonging to the individuals sanctioned, and will also prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
“During his tenure as the Senior Superintendent of Police in District Malir, Pakistan, Rao Anwar Khan (Anwar) was reportedly responsible for staging numerous fake police encounters in which individuals were killed by police, and was involved in over 190 police encounters that resulted in the deaths of over 400 people, including the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud,” said the statement outlining the reasons for Anwar’s blacklisting.
Mehsud was killed on Jan. 13, 2018 during a fake encounter allegedly staged by Anwar. Hailing from Waziristan, the 18-year-old was accused of being a member of the Pakistani Taliban by Anwar despite no evidence to support these allegations. A court-ordered police inquiry eventually found that he had been killed in a staged encounter alongside four others. Anwar was suspended from service before retiring on Jan. 1, 2019 while still facing trial for his actions.
“Anwar helped to lead a network of police and criminal thugs that were allegedly responsible for extortion, land grabbing, narcotics, and murder. Anwar is designated for being responsible for or complicit in, or having directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse,” the U.S. Treasury statement added.
In addition to Anwar, 17 individuals from five other nations have been blacklisted, including people from Burma (Myanmar), Libya, Slovakia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. In Myanmar, the country’s army chief and three other senior commanders were sanctioned over serious human rights abuses under their command, especially against ethnic minority groups.
The U.S. also took action against a militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—sanctioning its leaders and five other people linked to it—accused of massacring civilians. Sanctions were also imposed on five people in South Sudan and a militia commander in Libya. Slovak businessman Marian Kocner, accused of ordering the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, was also sanctioned.
“The United States will not tolerate torture, kidnapping, sexual violence, murder, or brutality against innocent civilians,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “America is the world leader in combatting human rights abuse and we will hold perpetrators and enablers accountable wherever they operate.” Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich echoed his views, adding: “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.”