The UK targets Saudis, Russians, two Myanmar generals and two organisations involved in labour, torture and murder in North Korea.
Forty-seven people – including those suspected to have been involved in the deaths of a Saudi journalist and a Russian lawyer – have been included on a new UK sanctions list.
Under a new UK-only regime, those individuals are the first to have been designated for sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes.
- 20 Saudi nationals involved in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi;
- 25 Russian nationals involved in the mistreatment and death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered widespread corruption;
- two high-ranking Myanmar generals involved in violence against Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities
Two organisations involved in forced labour, torture and murder in North Korea’s gulags have also been listed.
Further sanctions are expected to be announced in the coming months.
Announcing the new post-Brexit sanctions regime to MPs, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons: “Today this government and this House sends a very clear message on behalf of the British people.
“Those with blood on their hands, the thugs of despots, the henchman of dictators will not be free to waltz into this country to buy up property on the King’s Road, to do their Christmas shopping in Knightsbridge or frankly to siphon dirty money through British banks or other financial institutions.”
He said the measures, which will come into force immediately, were “just the latest next step forward in the long struggle against impunity for the worst human rights violations”.
Mr Raab also warned that organised criminals will “not be able to launder your blood money in this country”.
It is the first time that the UK has sanctioned people or entities for human rights violations and abuses under a UK-only regime.
The new autonomous regime will allow the UK to work independently with allies such as the US, Canada, Australia and the EU.
“As we forge a dynamic new vision for a truly Global Britain, this government is absolutely committed to the UK being an even stronger force for good in the world,” Mr Raab said.
Mr Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi regime, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
His death brought international condemnation for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was accused of ordering the killing.
However, he denied this and blamed the journalist’s death on a rogue operation by a team of agents.
Mr Magnitsky uncovered large-scale tax fraud in Russia and died in prison after giving evidence against corrupt officials.
He lends his name to the US “Magnitsky Act”, which imposes sanctions on human rights abusers.
Mr Raab paid tribute to Mr Magnitsky and told MPs that the lawyer’s wife, Natalia, and son, Nikita, were watching the Commons proceedings from the Foreign Office.
The foreign secretary was due to meet Mr Magnitsky’s family, as well as his colleague Bill Browder, later on Monday.
A special Foreign Office unit will consider the use of future sanctions, which Mr Raab told MPs was work that had already begun.
Senior Conservative MPs pressed for action on China under the new regime, with Tom Tugendhat – chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee – telling Mr Raab there had been a “remarkable silence on human rights violations in China”.
“There is no, as yet, announcement on any sanctions of those who are either exploiting or abusing the Uighur minorities in Xinjiang or repressing democracy activists in Hong Kong,” he said.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith called for Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam to be placed on the sanctions list.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said the UK has been a “haven” to those who use corruption, torture and murder to further their own ends.
“Today I hope sends a strong message that the UK is not their home and that their dirty money is not welcome here,” she told MPs.
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “We strongly support efforts to bring more human rights abusers to justice, but there’s a risk with a unilateral approach that sanctions could be selectively imposed by the UK for what are essentially political reasons.
“It is far preferable to have a joined-up, multilateral approach, working through the UN or the EU for example.”
Analysis: If the new sanctions list is to be credible, expect Chinese officials to be added
By Alistair Bunkall, defence and security correspondent
Two countries catch my eye, the first Saudi Arabia.
Recent British governments have been doggedly defensive of their controversial relationship with Riyadh.
We have repeatedly been told that Saudi Arabia is a vital ally against terrorism and Britain has supported the Saudi air campaign in Yemen.
But the new sanctions are targeted at the deputy head of Saudi intelligence and senior advisers to the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – figures right at the heart of the regime.
The foreign secretary refused to denounce the Saudi regime in my interview with him on Monday, but it’s hard to see how this doesn’t signal a diplomatic hardening of the relationship.
I doubt Saudi Arabia will simply shrug it off.
The second country that pops out is one not on the list: China.
Given the ongoing dispute over a new national security law for Hong Kong, this feels like a glaring omission.
And then there’s China’s persecution of the Uighur community: forced labour, separation of families and mass internments – the word genocide is being used quite regularly now.
So if Britain’s new sanctions policy is to be credible and consistent, expect the government to add Chinese officials to its sanctions list soon.