BCL partner John Binns discusses with Money Laundering Bulletin the UK’s new Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations, targeting a set of individuals and entities who are accused of breaching human rights in a number of jurisdictions around the world.
Here’s an extract from the article:
‘Those of us who are accustomed to dealing with financial sanctions may fairly ask whether there is anything really fundamentally different about the UK’s new Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020. Popularly understood and widely touted as our equivalent to the US’ Global Magnitsky Act, the new Regulations target a set of individuals and entities who are accused of breaching human rights in a number of jurisdictions around the world (although, predictably perhaps, with a particular bias towards Russia). But the impact, as far as UK businesses are concerned, is to add a few dozen names to an already very long list of people they may not (absent licences) do business with. So, is it really a fundamental change?
A unilateral approach
The significance of the Regulations is really about the precedents they set, in at least two respects. The first is of course that these are the first sanctions, in a context of foreign policy, as opposed to domestic terrorism, that the UK has imposed unilaterally, under the new powers in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (SAMLA), as opposed to simply enforcing decisions and regulations of the EU. With that in mind there are a number of details that might be significant. First, though the EU is itself also actively considering a Magnitsky sanctions regime, there seems to have been no attempt by the UK to mention this or to coordinate the two; if anything, the UK seems to have considered the unilateral nature of its actions as a plus. Second, a subset of the designations made so far – relating to Burma/Myanmar – seem to confirm the UK’s willingness to ‘step on the toes’ of the EU’s regimes, by listing names that the EU could have listed under their regimes but have not.
This unilateral approach should worry businesses that operate in the UK but have relationships in the EU, or vice versa, because it indicates a willingness to live with divergent, even contradictory, regimes in future. Much of the debate about Brexit of course has been about whether the UK will pivot in future towards a US rather than EU-influenced foreign policy, of which sanctions is a major component. Those who might previously have had confidence that the UK would not fall in line with US sanctions on Iran, to take the most important example, now have at least one indication to the contrary: several of the names now sanctioned by the UK are also on the US list, which might be thought to hint a willingness to follow the US’ lead in this area.’
This article was originally published by Money Laundering Bulletin on 20/07/20. You can read the full version on their website.