Dominic Raab: New sanctions show the UK "won't look the other way" on human rights

06 July 2020

In a statement earlier today, the Foreign Secretary announced the introduction of the Global Human Rights Sanctions regime.

Mr Raab told MPs of plans to introduce a sanctions regime similar to the Magnitsky Act in the US, which authorised the government to freeze the assets and ban people from entering the country who were seen as human rights offenders.

Previously, the UK had followed the sanctions regimes of the EU and UN. This new plan follows the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 in establishing a post-Brexit regime for dealing with human rights offenders.

Dominic Raab: "crystal clear"

Dominic Raab told the House that he first raised this issue in a Backbench Business Debate in 2012. He called it a "cross-party issue", and thanked colleagues "from all sides of the House" who joined him in supporting the cause.

Mr Raab called it the "UK’s first autonomous human rights sanctions regime", and stated that it gave the Government the power to impose sanctions on those who perpetrate the "very worst of human rights abuses around the world". He said that they allowed individuals to be punished without punishing entire countries.

The sanctions give the Government the right to freeze bank accounts and ban individuals from entering the country. The Foreign Secretary said this included both state officials and non-state actors, such as kleptocrats or organised criminals. Those sanctioned will be able to challenge the decision in court or request a minister review the decision. All designations will be reviewed every three years.

He outlined human rights violations as those that contradict the right to life, the right not to be subject from torture and the right to be free from slavery, but said they were exploring adding other human rights and looking into including those guilty of corruption.  

The Foreign Secretary outlined the individuals who will be sanctioned first. These include those involved in the torture and murder of Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky (who the Minister concluded his statement by paying tribute to), and Saudi Arabian journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, as well as those responsible for the genocide of the Rohingya population in Myanmar and for North Korea's gulags.

Mr Raab said he would work with global organisations and governments, including the US, Canada, Australia and the EU.

The Secretary of State said:

"This country makes it crystal clear to those who abuse their power to inflict unimaginable suffering that we won’t look the other way."

Lisa Nandy: "a long and difficult journey"

Responding on behalf of the Government/Opposition, Lisa Nandy said she welcomed the statement and that it had been a "long and difficult journey" to persuade the Government to introduce these sanctions.

Ms Nandy said that "for too long" the UK had acted as a "haven" for those who gain from human rights abuses and corruption, adding that she hoped today would send a "strong message" that they are not welcome here.

The Shadow Minister paid tribute to Sergei Magnitsky and his family, who she said had waited "far too long" for these regulations. She noted that the Opposition supported the fact that those responsible for Mr Magnitsky's murder were some of the first to face consequences under these sanctions, and said that the "time for action was long overdue" for Russian officials who have committed human rights offences. She called this "a profound act of solidary" with the Russian people.

She also spoke in memory of Jamal Khashoggi and said, although it was not a "day for sparring", that she hoped today marked the beginning of a "more consistent approach" from the Government in their dealings with Saudi Arabia "and in particular the arms sales from this country" that are being used to attack civilians in Yemen.

Similarly, Ms Nandy asked the Foreign Secretary to consider why the UK's development investment arm, CDC (controlled by the Department for International Development), invest in "those who are complicit in silencing" those who speak out against violence towards the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

The Member expressed a "serious concern" that the Government did not include corruption in the scope of these regulations, saying said that "corruption and human rights abuses go hand in hand". She asked for this to be immediately resolved, and pointed out that the USA and Canada had already included corruption in their scope.

She asked that these regulations cover UK overseas territories so that a "backdoor" was not created, and called for the names of all those sanctioned to be published publicly. Ms Nandy also called for parliamentary scrutiny of the list.

The Member/Minister of State said/told MPs/stated:

"Today is the day we stand up against corruption, dirty money and for our values with the full support of this House."

    Image: UK Government

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