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The UK imposes sanctions against abusers of human rights

07/07/2020

  • The UK is imposing sanctions on 49 people behind the most "notorious" human rights abuses of recent years.
  • In the past, the UK has imposed sanctions collectively as a member of the United Nations or European Union. But the UK is putting in place its own sanctions regime after its withdrawal from the EU, underpinned by legislation passed in 2018.
  • The UK will initially target individuals or organisations accused of human rights violations around the world, as well as those who profit financially from those abuses. The UK is required by law to enforce existing EU sanctions it is a party to until the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021. The government has said it will maintain these after that date and also existing UN sanctions.
  • Source https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-53303100 or read more below

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Individuals implicated in the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009 and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 will have their UK assets frozen and banned from the UK.

Action will also be taken against two Myanmar generals over the violence against the Rohingya people.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said perpetrators must be held to account.

Speaking in the Commons, the foreign secretary said the UK was taking action against the "thugs of despots and henchmen of dictators" as well as stopping those trying to launder their "blood-stained ill-gotten gains".

Russian officials implicated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky in 2009 are also set to be subject to travel bans.

The whistle-blower’s maltreatment while in custody has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.

In the past, the UK has almost always imposed sanctions collectively as a member of the United Nations or European Union. But the UK is putting in place its own sanctions regime after its withdrawal from the EU, underpinned by legislation passed in 2018. The UK will initially target individuals or organisations accused of human rights violations around the world, as well as those who profit financially from those abuses.

Speaking in the Commons the foreign secretary named several dozen people who will have their assets in the UK frozen immediately and who will also be banned from entering the country.

Ahead of a statement to Parliament, Mr Raab tweeted that those being designated were responsible for the "gravest violations".

Many MPs have long been pushing for a tougher domestic sanctions regime against foreign states accused of human rights abuses, based on the US Magnitsky Act.

The law was passed in response to the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow lawyer and auditor who accused Russian tax officials of defrauding Hermitage Capital Management, a foreign investment firm he was advising.

Magnitsky spent 11 months in police custody after being arrested in 2008, during which he sustained injuries which human rights campaigners say were consistent with him being beaten and tortured.

In 2019, European Court of Human Rights found there had been "multiple violations" of the European Convention of Human Rights, with Magnitsky being deprived of important medical care and the authorities had not complied with their duty to protect life.

Bill Browder, co-founder and chief executive of Hermitage Capital, said the sanctioning of individuals involved would represent "a huge milestone in our 10 year campaign for justice".

The list of those being sanctioned is not expected to include anyone from China.

It comes amid tensions between the UK and China after the Chinese government introduced a new security law in Hong Kong, which Boris Johnson said violated freedoms of the UK's former colony.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said the UK would continue to work with its allies to punish those responsible for violations, potentially including those "who commit unlawful killings perpetrated against journalists and media workers, or activity motivated on the grounds of religion or belief".

The 2018 Sanctions and Anti-money Laundering Act gave the UK government the powers to introduce some of the same sanctions that would have otherwise been decided by the EU.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said the new regime had been formed "a central plank of the government's foreign policy ambition to make Britain a global defender of international rules and human rights".