US targets technology used in rights abuses: Syria, Iran
US President Barack Obama announced policies Monday that would for the first time allow Washington to target those who use technology to commit human rights abuses, beginning with Iran and Syria, dpa reported.
Companies and individuals will be targeted under an executive order allowing Washington to sanction those who enable regimes to crack down on dissidents using technology such as mobile phone tracking and global positioning systems.
"These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not oppress them," Obama said in a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
"We need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kind of atrocities, because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people," he said.
In the first sanctions under the executive order, the US blocked US assets and prohibited US persons from engaging in transactions with Syrian and Iranian telecom companies and officials involved in monitoring their citizens.
The sanctions are aimed at Ali Mamluk, who oversaw the monitoring of Syrian opposition groups along with the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, and Syriatel, which has been involved in monitoring mobile phone conversations and controls 55 per cent of the country's mobile network.
In Iran, the sanctions target Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and law enforcement agencies involved in monitoring demonstrators in the 2009 post-election protests. Iran's Datak Telecom was also sanctioned for monitoring efforts by Iranians to get around the country's internet restrictions.
Obama also used the speech, which comes on the heels of Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, to stress the US role in preventing future genocide.
Obama, whose great-uncle was among the US troops who liberated Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, stressed the importance of telling future generations about the Holocaust of World War II.
"I say this as a president and as a father, we must tell our children about a crime unique in human history," he said, noting that the lessons learned must lead to a rejection of hatred and efforts to prevent future atrocities.
Obama's administration has stopped short of calling for military intervention in Syria, like that undertaken in Libya, and the president noted again Monday that the US could not intervene every time, saying a host of diplomatic and other options were available.
The president noted as examples of successful diplomatic intervention the referendum that led to the creation of South Sudan and the sending of military advisors to aid in the hunt for Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
Obama said that after a mandatory review the US would continue the deployment of the advisors to Uganda.
"This is part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family, no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier," he said.
Obama also reiterated US support for Israel and said he would "do everything in our power" to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
He also announced the first meeting later Monday of an atrocities prevention board that will bring together officials from across the government.