News

May 2, 2018

RSF welcomes UK Magnitsky amendment, calls for accountability for press freedom predators

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes the Magnitsky amendment added to the new Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, currently in the final stages of passing through the UK parliament. The amendment was added to the bill on 1 May without a vote, with the backing of cross-party MPs, after the government conceded it would not oppose it.

“Magnitsky” legislation is a growing international trend towards individual accountability for officials involved in acts of corruption or human rights abuses. Named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was tortured, denied medical attention, and found dead in a Moscow prison in 2009, the original Magnitsky Act was adopted in the US in 2012, imposing sanctions on Russian officials believed to be responsible for serious human rights violations.


The US Global Magnitsky Act followed in 2016, allowing for the imposition of visa bans and targeted sanctions on individual officials anywhere in the world who are responsible for acts of corruption or serious human rights abuses. Magnitsky legislation has now been adopted in a total of six countries: the US, UK, Estonia, Canada, Lithuania, and Latvia.


The new UK amendment, described as a ”‘full” Magnitsky amendment, follows the adoption of an earlier UK Magnitsky amendment as part of the Criminal Finances Act 2017. Although the previous amendment was symbolically important, the new legislation will be more practically useful in achieving targeted individual sanctions such as visa bans and asset freezing.


“This new full UK Magnitsky amendment is a very welcome move, and we call on the government to ensure it is used to hold corrupt, human rights-abusing officials to account, including those press freedom predators responsible for unjust imprisonment, violent attacks, and other mistreatment of journalists. We are encouraged by this growing international trend towards individual accountability for human rights violations, and hope to see the introduction of Magnitsky legislation in more countries in the near future”, said Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director for Reporters Without Borders.


The UK Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill has passed all stages in the House of Commons, and will now be returned to the House of Lords for final consideration of amendments, before receiving Royal Assent and becoming law.


The UK is ranked 40th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.