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Rights groups call on Biden to reverse Trump's easing of sanctions on Israeli businessman

Dan Gertler, Israeli mining investor, left, takes a tour of the Katanga Mining Ltd. copper-cobalt mine complex, partly operated by the Kamoto Copper Co., with Shimon Cohen, his communications advisor, right, in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of Congo, on 1 Wednesday, Aug. 2012. [Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images]
Dan Gertler, Israeli mining investor, left, takes a tour of the Katanga Mining Ltd. copper-cobalt mine complex, partly operated by the Kamoto Copper Co., with Shimon Cohen, his communications advisor, right, in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of Congo, on 1 Wednesday, Aug. 2012. [Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

International rights groups and several US lawmakers have called on the Biden administration to cancel Donald Trump's easing of sanctions against Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

In a joint letter, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and 28 other groups urged US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel the relief of sanctions imposed on the Israeli businessman.

The US Treasury accused Gertler of using his friendship with the former President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, to win sweetheart mining deals worth more than a billion dollars. Sanctions against him were imposed in December 2017 and June 2018. However, in his final week in the White House, Trump eased the sanctions in a secretive move.

This, insist the rights groups and lawmakers, undermined US anti-corruption efforts and set a dangerous precedent for the Global Magnitsky sanctions programme. According to Reuters, the signatories said that the move also thwarted "the critical, challenging, and sometimes dangerous work of Congolese and other civil society organisations and activists."

They are urging the Biden administration to investigate this last-minute licence immediately and, subject to relevant information, reverse the decision. "The US needs to ensure that the proceeds of alleged corruption are not being accessed and unblocked during the transition, or for political motives."

Democrat Senators Cory Booker, Ben Cardin and Dick Durbin urged Yellen on Tuesday to rescind the licence for Gertler.

READ: Swiss court finds Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz guilty of corruption 

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