Biden would sanction captors of Americans

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Tuesday to facilitate the flow of information to families of Americans held abroad and punish criminals, terrorists or officials who hold them captive.

It’s unclear whether the new provision will mean the return of Americans imprisoned in other countries, but senior administration officials who previewed the measure to the press said they see it as a valuable means of raising the cost of taking hostages and punishing hostage takers. .

The government faces criticism from some families who perceive a lack of ability and aggressiveness to bring back their loved ones. The arrest in Russia of the female basketball star Brittney Griner it has drawn greater attention to Americans imprisoned abroad and whom Washington considers to be illegally detained.

The executive order builds on a section of the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery Act — named for a retired FBI agent who disappeared in Iran 15 years ago and is presumed dead — that authorizes the president to impose visa revocations. and other sanctions on people believed to be involved in the illegal detention of Americans.

In this case, the sources said, this could apply to government officials or criminals or terrorists who are not part of a government. Since sanctions don’t always make it easy to free an American — for example, the Russian war in Ukraine continues despite a wave of sanctions imposed by Washington and allied governments — they will be used judiciously, according to an official who He spoke on condition of anonymity.

The decree orders federal agencies to improve the flow of information to families of detainees about their legal situation and the steps being taken to achieve their return.

In addition, the State Department will add a new risk indicator to its country advisories to warn travelers of nations believed to be at high risk of detention.

The department already uses risk indicators for categories such as crime, health and kidnapping. The new indicator, with the letter “D” for detention, will initially apply to the following countries: Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.

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Biden would sanction captors of Americans