Human rights: Britain set to use new powers to impose sanctions

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Britain is set to list on Monday the first foreign nationals to face asset freezes and visa bans for alleged human rights abuses under a new post-Brexit sanctions scheme that follows the 2012 U.S. Magnitsky Act.

Britain’s exit from the EU gives it the power to impose its own sanctions, rather than acting collectively as part of the bloc’s single market.

Foreign minister Dominic Raab has pressed for a tough sanctions regime. The first names to be set out in parliament will be followed by further sanctions under a “UK-only regime”.

“From today, the UK will have new powers to stop those involved in serious human rights abuses and violations from entering the UK, channelling money through our banks and profiting from our economy,” Raab said in a statement.

“This is a clear example of how the UK will help to lead the world in standing up for human rights. We will not let those who seek to inflict pain and destroy the lives of innocent victims benefit from what the UK has to offer.”

The United States passed a law known as the Magnitsky Act in 2012 under which it has imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials linked to the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer arrested in 2008 after alleging that Russian officials were involved in large-scale tax fraud.

Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after complaining of mistreatment.

Bill Browder, a client of Magnitsky’s who has led a campaign to expose corruption and punish Russian officials whom he blames for the lawyer’s death, expressed hope the act would be used “robustly and regularly”.

“The UK has an outsized role in the world because this is where everyone from the developed world wants to buy property, keep their families safe and store their money,” he said.

“By prohibiting dictators, torturers and murderers from coming here and enjoying our rule of law, it will have a very big impact.”

Described as the Magnitsky amendment, the British sanctions framework is not specifically aimed at Russians, but comes at a time of crisis in relations between London and Moscow following a nerve agent attack in England on a Russian ex-spy.

Omolayo.A