22:22 GMT12 August 2020
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    The new restrictions are based on 2018 legislation known as the 'Magnitsky amendment', giving the government the ability to sanction individuals for alleged gross violations of human rights.

    UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab unveiled new sanctions against 49 persons and groups accused of violating 'Magnitsky amendment' legislation from countries including Russia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Myanmar on Monday.

    "This government is committed to the UK being an ever stronger force for good in the world," Raab said in an address to parliament. "We will hold to account the perpetrators of the worst human rights abuses," he promised.

    "Those with blood on their hands won't be free...to waltz into this country, to buy up property on the Kings Road, do their Christmas shopping in Knightsbridge, or siphon dirty money through British banks," the foreign secretary added.

    The designations come in the wake of media reports over the weekend promising government action against alleged human rights violators from other countries. The new sanctions are the first of their kind since the UK's exit from the European Union in February.

    The UK's 'Magnitsky sanctions' are based on legislation previously adopted by the US in 2013, and named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian accountant who died in a Russian jail in 2019 while being held on suspicion of operating a tax fraud scheme. Western officials and media quickly designated Magnitsky as a whistleblower who uncovered a state corruption scheme. Like the UK's version of the sanctions legislation, the US's Magnitsky Act targeted Russian officials accused of involvement in the man's death by prohibiting them from visiting the US or using the American banking system.

    Russia maintains that there was no malicious intent or criminal negligence involved in Magnitsky's death. In a 2013 interview, President Vladimir Putin stressed that "there was no torture, as has been said, there was nothing else that would require the prosecution of officials. The case is closed."

    Russia Will Respond

    Monday's sanctions include restrictions against 25 Russian officials accused by the UK of involvement in Magnitsky's death, as well as 20 Saudi officials said to be behind the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a consulate in Turkey in 2018. The sanctions also target 2 generals accused of mass violence against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, plus two entities for their alleged role in the operation of North Korean prisons.

    The sanctions reportedly included Russian Investigative Committee Chief Alexander Bastrykin. Commenting on the sanctions, the Russian Embassy in the UK said the inclusion of Bastrykin in the sanctions list was especially "outrageous," and warned that Moscow has the right to respond in kind.

    "The inclusion in the sanction list of senior officials from the General Prosecutor's Office and the Investigative Committee as well as judges is particularly disturbing. In Russia, investigators, the prosecutor's office and the courts operate on the basis of independence from the executive branch and are guided exclusively by the law. In their practical work, they should not be made to consider possible hypothetical sanctions that might be imposed by a foreign state for political reasons," the Embassy said in a statement.

    Taking questions following the announcement, Raab did not rule out adding Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam to be added to the sanctions list over the suppression of Hong Kong's 'pro-democracy protests'.

    US Praises Britain's 'Independent' Sanctions

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised London's sanctions in a tweet later Monday, saying the US welcomes "the UK's establishment of a Global Human Rights sanctions regime" and calling Britain "a global leader and our close partner in promoting and protecting human rights."

    Bill Browder, the US-born British hedge fund manager who employed Magnitsky and lobbied for US and UK sanctions against Russia, also praised the designations, calling them a "huge milestone in our 10 [year] campaign for justice." Browder was kicked out of Russia on suspicion of shady market deals in the mid-2000s. In 2013 he was convicted in absentia by a Russian court for a range of crimes including tax evasion, fraud and for deliberately bankrupting a company in a slash and burn scheme. Later, some of Browder's alleged offshore shell companies were uncovered in the Panama Papers revelations.

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