US sanctions foreign powers using technology in human rights abuses

The US plans to target foreign nationals using new technologies to carry out human rights abuses

The US government plans to target foreign nationals who use new technologies to carry out human rights abuses.

US President Barack Obama is to issue an executive order that will allow US officials for the first time to impose sanctions against foreign nationals for the practice, the Washington Post reports.

The sanctions will be imposed on anyone found to have used new technologies – from tracking mobile phones to monitoring internet use – to help carry out grave human rights abuses, the paper said.

The executive order recognises that, while social media and mobile phones had helped democracy advocates organise in the Middle East, they had also enabled security services of authoritarian governments to conduct surveillance on dissidents and block access to the internet, particularly in Syria and Iran.

The order will acknowledge these dangers and the need to adapt US national-security policy to a world being "remade rapidly by technology", the Washington Post quoted senior officials as saying.

The order is designed to target companies and individuals assisting the governments of Iran and Syria, but sources said future executive orders could name others aiding other countries through technology in crackdowns on dissent.

Obama is to announce the executive order during a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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