WASHINGTON - Former Malir senior superintendent of police (SSP) Rao Anwar has been blacklisted by the United States for allegedly murdering over 400 people in fake police encounters.

The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on at least 20 more people accused of human rights abuses, targeting government officials, businessmen and others in countries from Myanmar to Pakistan — but still avoiding penalizing some world leaders deemed critical partners.

The new sanctions, announced Tuesday, are the latest in a cascade of such penalties unveiled in recent days by the Treasury and State Departments, and just another example of how much the Trump administration relies on sanctions as a tool of coercion in its foreign policy.

The latest round may help counter narrative that Republican President Donald Trump and his aides do little to promote human rights. But it also could feed into the criticism that the Trump team is unusually selective in whom it penalizes — sticking primarily to people in countries it considers U.S. adversaries or of limited geostrategic importance.

Tuesday’s announcement coincides with Human Rights Day, observed globally to mark the United Nations’ 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The United States will always remain a staunch supporter of those who strive for their unalienable rights and human dignity,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. He singled out human rights abuses in China, Iran, Syria and Venezuela — all viewed by the administration as adversaries.

Rao Anwar Khan of Pakistan was sanctioned. According to the Treasury Department, as a senior police officer he staged “numerous fake police encounters in which individuals were killed by police, and was involved in over 190 police encounters that resulted in the deaths of over 400 people.”

It said Anwar “helped to lead a network of police and criminal thugs that were allegedly responsible for extortion, land grabbing, narcotics, and murder”.

His alleged victims include Naqeebullah Mehsud, an aspiring model whose case drew outrage across Pakistan.

According to the press release, the former Malir SSP has been designated “for being responsible for or complicit in, or having directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse”.

Anwar, perhaps Karachi’s most controversial cop, officially retired from service last year. However, the 37 years he spent with the police service tell the remarkable tale of the changing fortunes of a man willing to take the risks and go the length for his patrons.

Two things that have been a consistent feature of Anwar’s tumultuous career are the encounters and accusations of corrupt practices that have dogged him over the years. Despite having faced a number of disciplinary actions and suspensions, the most infamous being in the aftermath of Waziristan native Mehsud’s murder, Anwar has surreptitiously managed to dodge legal action, possibly due to the interventions of his backers.

Among the people targeted in the sanctions unveiled Tuesday are a handful of military leaders in Myanmar accused in mass atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, hundreds of thousands of whom were forced to flee to Bangladesh in 2017. Those targeted include Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s military forces.

Others targeted include individuals in Libya, Slovakia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. Among them is Marian Kocner, a Slovakian businessman accused of hiring a hitman to murder of Jan Kuciak, a reporter investigating his suspicious dealings, as well as Kuciak’s fiancée, Martina Kusnirova.

The majority of the people targeted Tuesday face economic sanctions, meaning any assets they have in the United States will be frozen and Americans cannot do business with them. Some critics say such sanctions are of limited value, especially if the individuals have few ties to the American financial system. Still, many human rights activists say the symbolism alone of being sanctioned can deter other bad actors.

Others targeted in the latest announcement faced different types of penalties. For instance, among those sanctioned is Mohammed al Otaibi, former consul general of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, Turkey. He is accused of complicity in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who contributed to The Washington Post. The sanctions imposed on Otaibi deem him and his immediate family members ineligible to enter the U.S.

In its latest actions, the administration is relying heavily on the Global Magnitsky law, which allows it to impose sanctions on individuals suspected of human rights abuses or corruption. An earlier version of the law applied to officials in Russia, but it was expanded late in the Obama administration, and the Trump administration has used it frequently.

The laws were inspired by the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died after being jailed and abused for his probing of corruption linked to the Kremlin.

On Monday, the Treasury Department announced a separate batch of sanctions, including some aimed at two Venezuelan officials. The sanctions relied in part on the Global Magnitsky law and were aimed primarily at alleged corrupt actors. The announcement was timed to coincide with International Anti-Corruption Day.

Human rights activists have mixed feelings about the Trump administration’s use of the Global Magnitsky tool.