New UK global sanctions regime

High-rise financial institution building

On 6 July, foreign secretary Dominic Raab MP announced the introduction of a new global sanctions regime to be employed as “a forensic tool, which allows [the UK] to target perpetrators without punishing the wider people of a country that may be affected”.

The UK’s sanctions regime has previously been tied to the wider EU structure.

The new Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 were introduced under the Sanctions and Anti Money-Laundering Act 2018, and came into force the same day they were laid before Parliament (although they will still undergo the made affirmative procedure).

The new regulations allow the UK government to designate persons who are involved in certain activities which, had they been carried out by or on behalf of a state, would amount to a serious violation of certain human rights:

  • an individual’s right to life
  • an individual’s right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • an individual’s right to be free from slavery, not to be held in servitude or required to perform forced or compulsory labour

These designated persons can be subjected to a travel ban or an asset freeze.

The names of designated persons are not included in this instrument – these will be held on a separate administrative list to enable immediate publication following a decision to make or amend a designation.

The first tranche of designated persons was also announced, including:

  • 25 Russian nationals involved in the mistreatment and death of auditor Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered widespread Russian corruption by a group of Russian tax and police officials
  • 20 Saudi nationals involved in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
  • two high-ranking Myanmar military generals involved in the systematic and brutal violence against the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities
  • two organisations involved in the forced labour, torture and murder that takes place in North Korea’s gulags

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy MP welcomed the announcement and asked whether the measures would also be introduced for UK crown dependencies and overseas territories. The foreign secretary confirmed that this would be the case.