As pressure increases, Biden signs an executive order to prevent the illegal detention of Americans abroad

Washington-President Joe Biden signed a presidential order on Tuesday aimed at stopping and punishing the illegal detention of US citizens abroad by allowing government agencies to impose sanctions and other measures.

This move took place amid increasing pressure on Biden from hostages and the families of detainees. Most recently, it’s the case of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February and has been tried on suspicion of drugs.

However, some families said the order was specifically rarely achieved. By not allowing them to ask questions during a Monday video call previewing their actions, while saying Washington still lacks a solid strategy on how to take their loved ones home. Condemned the administration.

The plight of U.S. detainees is the recent arrest of Grinner and the exchange of prisoners with Russia during decades of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when U.S. relations with Moscow were at its worst. After being released, it became visible.

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, was in court hearing on July 15, 2022 in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow, Russia. I’m watching the day. (Evgenia Novozhenina / Reuters).
Former Marine Trevor Reed
Former US Marine Trevor Reed, accused of attacking police, stands in the defendant’s cage during a verdict hearing in the Golovinskiy District Court in Moscow on July 30, 2020.

The United States does not provide official figures for the number of US citizens detained abroad, but the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, named after an American journalist who was abducted and killed in Syria, said 60. There are more than 18 US citizens in about 18 countries.

Some are held by top US enemies such as Iran, Russia, Venezuela and China.

“We promise to resolve all these cases, and at the same time … at the same time, we will begin to come up with a deterrence strategy that can raise the cost of hostages and illegal detention,” a senior government official told reporters on Monday. Said on the phone. ..

The Executive Order allows institutions to impose costs and consequences, including economic sanctions, on those involved in hostage taking.

“The sanctions included in this EO will allow prisoners of war, whether they are terrorist networks or state actors, to impose financial and travel sanctions on those responsible for unfairly detaining US citizens,” Antony said. US Secretary of State Blinken made a statement.

The order directs government agencies to work more closely with detainees’ families and share information and possibly information, US officials said.

The State Department’s travel recommendations add warnings when the risk of tort detention is high. On Tuesday, six countries will be warned: Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.

“There is nothing constructive”

After the government made a video call with the family on Monday, some participants expressed disappointment about what the action was and how it was done.

“We were on record and asked the White House to be more directly involved with the family, and once again we were given a group call … and what we were constructive to the hostages. I ended the call without even doing it, “said Emmad’s sister Neda Shargi, an Iranian-American businessman detained in Tehran in 2018.

Shargi and colleagues said Zoom calls don’t have the ability to ask questions or talk to US authorities. Some participants also said the action was focused on preventing further hostages, rather than presenting strategies on how to bring existing detainees home. rice field.

Everett Rutherford, uncle of U.S. Marine Corps veteran Matthew Heath, who had been imprisoned in Venezuela for nearly two years, said “it was a lecture rather than a dialogue,” adding that the order was overwhelming. ..

“This directive basically directed various parts of the government to do what they were supposed to do,” he said.

According to the Foley Foundation, countries illegally detaining Americans include Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Mali, Burma, Nicaragua, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates. Includes the Commonwealth, Venezuela and Yemen. ..

The April prisoner exchange with Russia, which brought Reed home in the midst of the Ukrainian War, strengthened calls from other relatives held abroad for Biden to act.

Reed was released after three years of detention as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia. Biden commuted the US imprisonment of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.

A few weeks before Reed was released, his parents met Biden after demonstrating outside the White House. The family says they believe that the path to ensuring release begins with meeting Biden in person. This is the view that the administration is trying to discourage.

Trevor Reed's family
On May 4, 2022, detainee Trevor Reed’s father Joey and sister Taylor Reed pose for a photo while gathering with other detainees’ families outside the White House. (Kevin Fogarty / Reuters)

By Humeyra Pamuk and Alexandra Alper