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July 7, 2020

RSF welcomes launch of UK targeted human rights sanctions regime

Photo: AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes the UK Foreign Office’s launch of its targeted human rights sanctions regime. RSF has long advocated implementation of the UK’s Magnitsky legislation, which will be an important tool to hold press freedom predators and other human rights abusers to account. The inclusion of 20 Saudi nationals implicated in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the initial sanctions list is a welcome first step.

On 5 July, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the launch of the UK’s first global human rights sanctions regime through the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulation 2020. The Foreign Office also released the initial list of individuals to be sanctioned, including 25 Russian nationals involved in the mistreatment and death of tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, and 20 Saudi nationals implicated in the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as cases related to violent abuses in Myanmar and North Korea.


“We welcome the launch of the UK’s new global human rights sanctions regime, which is a long overdue step to implement the Magnitsky Amendment and allow this important tool to be used to hold press freedom predators and other human rights abusers to account. We are extremely pleased with the inclusion of those implicated in the murder of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the initial sanctions list, which is an important signal by the UK government that it will not accept impunity for this horrific crime”, said RSF Director of International Campaigns Rebecca Vincent.


The Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulation 2020 is secondary legislation laid under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, providing the framework for implementation of the UK’s “full” Magnitsky Amendment. A previous UK Magnitsky Amendment was adopted as part of the Criminal Finances Act 2017, but was never applied in practice.


RSF has long advocated the adoption of targeted sanctions in the UK and internationally as a tool to hold press freedom predators to account. The UK joins seven other countries that have Magnitsky-style human rights sanctions laws in effect: Canada, Estonia, Gibraltar, Jersey, Latvia, Lithuania, and the United States. An EU “Magnitsky Act” is also being debated.


In February 2020, RSF endorsed a report by the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom on the use of targeted sanctions to protect journalists. RSF will closely monitor implementation of the UK legislation to ensure its application as a means of ending impunity for crimes against journalists.


The UK is ranked 35th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.