A new sanctions regime against abusers of human rights unveiled on Monday could be applied to individuals in India or those in countries that are allies or friends of the United Kingdom, foreign secretary Dominic Raab has said.
The first list of individuals and entities facing asset freeze and visa bans include those from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and North Korea. Raab came under pressure on Tuesday to name individuals in China (on abuses related to Uyghur Muslims) and Hong Kong.
During the debate in the House of Commons, Scottish National Party MP Brendan O’Hara asked Raab about imposing sanctions on the UK’s allies, including India, which is one of the key markets with which the post-Brexit UK is keen to reach a free trade deal.
He asked: “Can the Foreign Secretary assure the House that the application of the sanctions regime will be transparently even-handed and will not be blind to human rights abuses carried out by or in the name of our so-called allies and friends such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel or India, or indeed countries with which we are seeking to secure a post-Brexit trade deal?
Raab responded: “If the hon. Gentleman looks at the designations, he will see that we have answered that in the first round that we are making today”. The UK has a ‘long-standing relationship’ with Saudi Arabia, which is one of the countries whose citizens named on Monday.
Raab said MPs, civil society groups and others could suggest names for future sanctions. Britain’s crime officials have been dealing with several cases of foreign nationals with controversial backgrounds who have bought property and other assets in London and the UK.
Raab told MPs: “(This) Government and this House send a very clear message, on behalf of the British people: those with blood on their hands, the thugs of despots, the henchmen of dictators, will not 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 or other financial institutions”.
Labour MP Gagan Mohindra, who was one of the new Indian-origin MPs elected in the December 2019 election, asked Raab if the sanctions regime would include the issue of freedom of religion and belief around the world.
Raab responded: “The regime focuses on the most serious human rights abuses—those against the right to life, the prohibition against torture, and the prohibition against slave labour and forced labour—but of course many of those abuses can be directed at journalists and those practising their religion, and if he looks at the designations that we have made today, he will find that that is true even in relation to the first wave”.
Those named in the first list of sanctions include Myanmar army commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and Soe Win, deputy commander-in-chief – both named in relation to Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state.
The regime is expected to 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.__Hindustan Times