UK sanctions Russians and Saudis under new Magnitsky law powers

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Britain announced economic sanctions on Monday against individuals and organizations in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and North Korea under new British powers to punish perpetrators of human rights abuses.Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said the sanctions targeted those behind “some of the notorious human rights violations in recent years”.

These include senior Saudi intelligence officials accused of participating in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and Russian authorities involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in a Moscow prison after denouncing a tax evasion scheme involving Russian officials. .

North Korean organizations – the Ministry of Public Security and the Correctional Ministry of Public Security – have been punished for running prisoner camps in the authoritarian Communist state.

Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, and Commander of the Myanmar Army Soe Win are also on the list of 49 individuals and organizations. They are accused of having orchestrated systematic violence against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

WATCH | The long and difficult struggle to pass the Magnitsky law in Canada:

Bill Browder, who has led an international campaign for Magnitsky laws, joins Terry Milewski to discuss Canada’s efforts to pass the Magnitsky law 6:03

Britain had previously imposed sanctions for human rights violations within the framework of the European Union or under the auspices of the United Nations. But since he left the European Union in January, he has implemented his own version of the Magnitsky law.

British law allows the government to prevent sanctioned individuals from entering the country, channeling money through British banks, or profiting from the British economy.

“You can’t set foot in this country, and we will seize your ill-gotten blood-soaked gains if you try,” said Raab announcing the new sanctions.

Opposition government and lawmakers both welcomed the measures, although some wondered why no Chinese officials had been included, given the new Hong Kong security law in Beijing and the crackdown in the western region of Xinjjang. More than one million people in Xinjiang – from ethnic groups including Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz – are being held in a vast network of detention centers.

Conservative lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, who heads the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said there had been “a remarkable silence on human rights abuses in China”.

Raab said more people would be added to the sanctions list, but he “would not get ahead of the next wave of designations.”

Leonid Slutsky, head of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of the Russian parliament, called the sanctions “Russophobic nonsense” and said that Moscow reserved the right to take “well-balanced” reprisals.

“London has taken another step towards the deterioration of Russian-British relations,” he said, according to Russian news agencies.

A Rohingya refugee walks into a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in March 2019. (Mohammad Ponir Hossain / Reuters)

Canada has its own version of the Magnitsky Law – a law first passed in the United States in 2012 after much pressure from William Browder, formerly the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005, who was also the boss of Sergei Magnitsky.

The Canadian version, which came into force in 2017, allows the government to impose financial and other restrictions on foreign nationals responsible for or complicit in internationally recognized human rights violations. The law also authorizes the government to freeze assets held by foreign nationals and to prohibit the financial transactions of known perpetrators of human rights violations.

Canada has used the law to punish perpetrators of human rights abuses from Russia and Venezuela, preventing them from using the Canadian banking system. In November 2018, Canada sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals responsible for or accessory to the torture and death of Jamal Khashoggi.

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