Two top Myanmar army officials involved in atrocities against Rohingya Muslims are among 49 individuals and entities named by the Boris Johnson government on Monday under a new regime of sanctions unveiled against abusers of human rights.
The regime equips the post-Brexit UK with new powers to freeze assets and stop those involved in serious human rights abuses and violations from entering the country, channelling money through UK banks, or profiting from the British economy, foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced.
Those identified in the first such list of sanctions are mostly Russian and Saudi Arabian individuals, but also include Myanmar army commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and Soe Win, deputy commander-in-chief – both named in relation to Rohinyas in Rakhine state.
It is the first time that the UK has sanctioned people or entities for human rights violations and abuses under a UK-only regime. It previously joined collective sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the European Union.
Officials said that the first list included 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; and two organisations involved in the forced labour, torture and murder that takes place in North Korea’s gulags.
Raab said the regime will allow the UK to target individuals and organisations around the world unlike conventional geographic sanctions regime, which only target a country. It could also include those who commit unlawful killings perpetrated against journalists and media workers, or violations and abuses motivated on the grounds of religion or belief.
A special unit will consider the use of future sanctions, with teams across the department monitoring human rights issues. They will ensure targets under the landmark regime will have to meet stringent legal tests before the UK decides to designate, ensuring the sanctions are robust and powerful.
As specified in the legislation presented in the House of Commons, the regime can be used to impose sanctions for serious violations or abuses of three human rights: an individual’s right to life; right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or right to be free from slavery, not to be held in servitude or required to perform forced or compulsory labour.