May 28, 2024

President Biden announces historic tool to punish governments and groups that hold American citizens hostage or wrongfully detain them around the world

President Joe Biden delivers remarks before signing H.R. 5376, the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022”, Tuesday, August 16, 2022, in the State Dining Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a new tool that will impose severe economic costs on governments and groups that hold American citizens hostage or wrongfully detain them around the world. The move is a historic one, and the first time such a tool has been deployed by the US government.

Since the beginning of his administration, Biden has made it a priority to secure the safe return of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. Despite bringing home dozens of Americans, including many who had been held for years, too many remain separated from their loved ones, including those being held in Russia, Iran, and other countries.

In a statement, Biden expressed his unwavering commitment to keep faith with the hostages and their families, to pursue new ways to bring them home, and to prevent future families from experiencing the same pain and suffering.

To this end, the Department of State and the Department of Treasury have announced the first-ever sanctions against actors who engage in the wrongful detention of Americans. Four individuals and two security services in Russia and Iran have been targeted, and all of their property and interests in property in the possession or control of U.S. persons are now blocked.

The move makes use of the Executive Order issued by Biden last summer, which built on the 2020 Hostage Recovery and Hostage Taking Accountability Act. The law, which was passed largely due to the perseverance of families and others in the community, seeks to turn pain into purpose and bring an end to wrongful detentions and hostage-taking.

Biden’s message to Russia, Iran, and the world is clear: holding Americans hostage or wrongfully detaining them is unacceptable, and the US government will take all necessary measures to secure their release.

The announcement brings hope to the families of those being held against their will and sends a strong message to those who engage in such despicable acts. It is a significant step forward in the fight against wrongful detentions and hostage-taking, and one that will not be taken lightly.

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