Britain, on Monday, announced sanctions against dozens of officials from Russia and Saudi Arabia who are accused of international human rights violations. Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, listed 47 individuals subject to sanctions including the freezing of their assets and a ban on entry to Britain.
He said they were involved in “some of the worst human rights abuses in recent memory’’.
“This is a demonstration of global Britain’s commitment to acting as a force for good in the world,’’ Raab said.
“We will defend media freedoms, protect freedom of religion and, with the measures, we are announcing and enacting today, hold to account the perpetrators of the worst human rights abuses,’’ he told parliament.
Those subject to Britain’s new Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations, which are similar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, include 25 Russians and 20 Saudi citizens.
“The first designations will cover those individuals involved in the torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer, who disclosed the biggest known tax fraud in Russian history.’’
Britain has developed its sanctions independently of the European Union after it formally left the bloc in January, but the government said it would continue to cooperate with UN and EU multilateral sanctions regimes.
Raab said British officials would work closely with the U.S. but also “strongly support efforts to bring an EU human rights sanctions regime into effect’’.
Magnitsky act campaigner, Bill Browder, tweeted his thanks to Raab, saying a “huge milestone was passed today with the implementation of the UK Magnitsky Act on Sergei Magnitsky’s killers’’.
Browder said he visited Raab’s office later Monday for a planned meeting with Raab and Magnitsky’s widow and son.
Browder, who founded Hermitage Capital Management, was barred from Russia after alleging official corruption.
Magnitsky, also an anti-corruption activist, was a lawyer for his firm.
“Whilst others left Russia, understandably fearing for their lives, Magnitsky stayed on to take a stand for the rule of law and to strike a blow against the breath-taking corruption that plagues Russia,’’ Raab said.
“That bravery cost him his life,’’ he said, adding that Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 on “trumped-up charges” of tax evasion.
Russia criticised the new sanctions on Russian officials.
“We are particularly appalled by the designation of top officials of the Prosecutor General’s office and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, as well as judges,’’ the Russian embassy in London said.
“Russia reserves the right to respond to today’s unfriendly decision by the UK,’’ the statement said.
Raab also said the 20 Saudi citizens subject to sanctions were “responsible for the brutal murder of the writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018’’.
Myanmar military leaders Min Aung Hlaing and Soe Win were also listed.
A UN fact-finding mission has recommended that both men be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
North Korea’s public security and state security ministries were the only organisations listed for sanctions by the British government, which said more sanctions were “expected in the coming months’’.
Raab said the two security ministries were responsible for “the enslavement, torture and murder that take place in North Korea’s wretched gulags, in which it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of prisoners have perished over the last 50 years’’.
He told lawmakers that Britain’s sanctions were “a forensic tool’’.
“They allow us to target perpetrators without punishing the wider people of a country that may be affected.’’
Raab said Britain was also considering “how a corruption regime could be added to the armoury of legal weapons that we have’’.