Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime - Statement

– in the House of Lords at 2:04 pm on 8th July 2020.

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The following Statement was made on Monday 6 July in the House of Commons.

“Mr Speaker, with permission, I would like to make a Statement on the global human rights sanctions regulations. As we forge a dynamic new vision for a truly global Britain, this Government are absolutely committed to the United Kingdom becoming an even stronger force for good in the world: on climate change, as we host COP 26; as we champion 12 years of education for every girl in the world, no matter how poor their background; and on human rights, where we will defend media freedoms and protect freedom of religious belief, and, with the measures we are enacting and announcing today, hold to account the perpetrators of the worst human rights abuses.

I first raised this issue in a 2012 Back-Bench Business debate. It was a cross-party issue then, as I hope it will be now. I recall co-sponsoring it with the former Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. I also would like to pay tribute to Members from across the House, particularly my right honourable friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), who sponsored that debate, and the honourable Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), who joined me in that initial debate and who has been chivvying me along ever since, normally from a sedentary position.

The idea of taking targeted action against human rights violators has received further cross-party backing since then, from honourable Members in all parts of the House, including five former Foreign Secretaries and the current chair of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. In 2019, it was in the Conservative Party’s manifesto as a clear commitment.

Today I am proud that under this Prime Minister and this Government, we make good on that pledge, bringing into force the United Kingdom’s first autonomous human rights sanctions regime, which gives us the power to impose sanctions on those involved in the very worst human rights abuses right around the world. These sanctions are a forensic tool, which allows us to target perpetrators without punishing the wider people of a country that may be affected. The regulations will enable us to impose travel bans and asset freezes against those involved in serious human rights violations. We are talking about, first, the right to life, where it is threatened by assassinations and extrajudicial killing; secondly, the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and, thirdly, the right to be free from slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour. The powers enable us to target a wider network of perpetrators, including those who facilitate, incite, promote or support these crimes. This extends beyond state officials to non-state actors as well. So if you are a kleptocrat or an organised criminal, you will not be able to launder your blood money in this country. Today 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.

The regulations are just the latest next step forward in the long struggle against impunity for the worst human rights violations. We have deliberately focused on the worst crimes, so we have the clearest basis, to make sure we can operate the new system as effectively as we possibly can. That said, we will continue to explore expanding this regime to include other human rights, and I can tell the House that we are already considering how a corruption regime could be added to the armoury of legal weapons we have. In particular, honourable Members will be interested to know that I am looking at the UN Convention against Corruption, and practice already under way under the frameworks in jurisdictions such as the United States and Canada.

Today we have also published a policy note, which sets out how we will consider designations under these regulations, for maximum transparency. As the House would expect, the legislation will ensure that due process will be followed in relation to those designations, reflecting the process rights contained in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. In practice, those people designated will be able to request that a Minister review the decision. They will be able to challenge the decision in the court. And, just as a matter of due diligence, the Government will review all designations at least once every three years.

In addition to introducing this new legal regime, today we are proceeding directly to make the first designations under the regulations. We are imposing sanctions on individuals involved in some of the most notorious human rights violations in recent years. The first designations will cover those individuals involved in the torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer who disclosed the biggest known tax fraud in Russian history. The designations will also include those responsible for the brutal murder of the writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and those who perpetrated the systematic and brutal violence against the Rohingya population in Myanmar. They will also include two organisations bearing responsibility for the enslavement, torture and murder that takes place in North Korea’s wretched gulags, in which it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of prisoners have perished over the past 50 years. With those first designations, the Government—and, I hope, the House and the country—make it crystal clear to those who abuse their power to inflict unimaginable suffering that we will not look the other way. You cannot set foot in this country and we will seize your blood-drenched ill-gotten gains if you try.

In practice, targeted sanctions are most effective when they are done through co-ordinated collective action, so we will be working closely with our Five Eyes partners, including in particular the US and Canada, which already have Magnitsky-style sanctions legislation, and Australia, which is considering similar legislation. We will also strongly support efforts to bring an EU human rights sanctions regime into effect and we stand ready to co-ordinate with our European partners on future measures. In fact, I discussed that in Berlin recently with our E3 partners.

Mr Speaker, with your permission I would like to end by paying tribute to the man who inspired these sanctions, Sergei Magnitsky, a young Russian tax lawyer. Between 2007 and 2008, Magnitsky exposed the theft of $230 million committed by tax officials in Russia’s own interior ministry. While others left Russia, understandably fearing for their lives, Magnitsky stayed on to take a stand for the rule of law and to strike a blow against the breath-taking corruption that plagues Russia. That courage cost him his life. He was arrested in 2008 on trumped-up charges of tax evasion and, in a particularly Kafkaesque twist, the very tax investigators that Magnitsky had exposed were the ones who turned up to arrest him. The Public Oversight Commission, a Moscow-based non-governmental organisation, found that while in detention Magnitsky was subjected to physical and psychological abuse amounting to torture. Over the course of his time in prison he developed abdominal pain and acute bladder inflammation, but prison officers cruelly withheld the medical treatment he needed. Eventually, he was transferred to another facility ostensibly to receive medical care. Instead, he was handcuffed and beaten to death by riot police with truncheons. He died on 16 November 2009, aged 37.

The House will recall that the European Court of Human Rights found Russia had violated its most basic human rights, from the treatment of Magnitsky in prison to the lack of an effective investigation. None of those involved have ever been brought to justice. Perversely, some have been promoted or even decorated with medals. In fact, the only person ever prosecuted for this appalling crime was Sergei Magnitsky himself after his death; Russian’s first ever posthumous trial.

I pay tribute to Bill Browder, who employed Sergei Magnitsky and has campaigned for justice ever since his death. I hope that today we in this House show our solidarity with the family that Sergei Magnitsky left behind: his wife Natalia and his son Nikita. I can tell the House that they will be watching from my office in the Foreign Office as we speak. Amidst their enduring loss, they can be proud of Sergei’s courage, which inspires us to hold up a torch on behalf of all those who perished or suffered at the hands of those we designate today and to keep the flame of freedom alive for those brave souls still suffering in the very darkest corners of the world. I commend this Statement to the House.”

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues) 2:06 pm, 8th July 2020

My Lords, I welcome this Statement. The UK cannot operate as a safe haven for human rights abusers, and the establishment of these powers will begin the process of ensuring that this is not the case. However, the existence of the powers alone will not suffice. We must ensure that they are enacted in the most efficient way to deter individuals. Parliamentary scrutiny of the powers and their enaction is key to this. On Monday, the Foreign Secretary said the designations will be published online and that he would welcome a full and rigorous engagement with, and scrutiny of, all that process. He also referred to the role of the courts in due process and ensuring that proper safeguards are put in place. But what of the role of this House in this regard? We of course have representation through the Joint Intelligence and Security Committee, and the Foreign Secretary said that once it is duly constituted, it will have a role in issues such as this. Does the Minister agree that this announcement demands the early constitution of the committee? He will be aware that in the US, there is a congressional trigger for members to input designations. Is this one of the roles the Foreign Secretary had in mind?

I raise the issue of how Parliament can input designations because the current list is incomplete. There is no announcement of any sanctions against those who are either exploiting or abusing the Uighur minority in Xinjiang or repressing democracy activists in Hong Kong. The Foreign Secretary said on Monday that he would not pre-empt what the next wave of designations will be, but he assured the other place that the FCO was already working on them. When does the Minister expect further designations, bearing in mind how urgent the situation is in relation to Hong Kong? The Foreign Secretary also agreed on Monday that corruption and human rights abuses were often interlinked. He confirmed that the work on incorporating corruption is under way, so can the Minister tell us what is the timeframe for that work to be completed?

I hope that these new powers will be used to build a values-based foreign policy, but announcing the decision to resume the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen the day after 20 Saudi officials were, rightly, placed on the FCO’s sanctions list for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, killed in part for criticising Saudi conduct in the war in Yemen, is at the very least a case of mixed messages, undermining the Government’s claim to be human rights defenders.

The UK has enormous influence on the world stage, and sanctions are one of the strongest tools we hold to confront suffering and abuse, but they will be invalidated and rendered futile if one hand of the Government contributes to the same abuses that the other hand seeks to fight. The Government must understand that only through international co-operation can we ensure that our sanctions are most effective. Through our network of allies, be it the Five Eyes, our neighbours in Europe or NATO, we can guarantee that our actions target the same individuals, and through leading in these alliances, we can best confront those exact individuals whose crimes offend every value that we hold dear.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord for the Statement. This is a major step forward and I thank him, his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and his officials for all their work. Many have played their part in this, including organisations like Transparency International and campaigners like Amal Clooney. I also acknowledge the very brave Bill Browder, who will realise that the Russian leadership would happily do to him what it did to the Skripals. Bill Browder has described the UK Government’s initiative as “a huge milestone” and to quote him again

“Most kleptocrats and human rights violators keep their money in the UK, have houses in London, and send their kids to British schools.”

This will have a stinging effect on bad guys around the world.

These bans are also a tribute to Sergei Magnitsky, who paid for his courage and honesty with his life. I am very glad that his family was able to watch this Statement being made from the Foreign Office. I commend the Government for listing 25 Russian nationals who are linked to his case. It is good, too, that 20 of those who played their part in the death of Jamal Khashoggi are also sanctioned. And yet just yesterday, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has made clear, we granted the sale of arms once more to Saudi Arabia.

It is important, too, to note that two senior Myanmar generals who were involved in the suppression of the Rohingya population are also listed, although it has been noted that this may be largely symbolic because they have no known assets in the UK and would not be allowed to travel here anyway. I note also that two organisations which have been linked with human rights abuses in North Korea will be sanctioned.

However, there are omissions, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and others have said. Where is China in this? Will those who are oppressing the Uighurs be included? Will proper consideration be given to the China Tribunal’s conclusion about organ harvesting, and might sanctions result? What of the doctors who may have been involved? What about those who are taking actions in Hong Kong, including potentially Carrie Lam, who has overseen the destruction of human rights there by overseeing the abandonment of “one country, two systems”.

In their equivalent legislation, the United States and Canada include corruption, and I have seen how effective US sanctions are in rooting out corruption in Africa. To quote Bill Browder again:

“Once you get onto a sanctions list you become a non-person in the world of finance. You can’t do business with anybody. … It is probably the worst thing that can happen to people who are very wealthy. These are rich government officials who made their money through graft and theft and imprisonment.”

Can the noble Lord update us on whether corruption charges will be included?

Can the noble Lord also tell us how the new regime will be overseen, so that it is not knocked off course by short-term concerns? Will its administration be separate from the FCO, DIT and the MoD, which might have other interests? What parliamentary oversight will there be? I note too that we have not yet seen the long-awaited report from the Intelligence and Security Committee and I support the demands for that committee to be resumed immediately.

When we were in the EU, we had of course engaged with it to bring all EU countries along with us, particularly Sweden and the Netherlands, on similar human rights sanctions proposals. I am glad that we will continue to work with our EU colleagues, although that will be more challenging. However, the more we work together on this, the more effective we will be. I note already that, on human rights in China and Hong Kong, many more countries of the UN supported China than supported our position, and that will be a challenge in the future. Overall, however, I welcome this Statement as a major step forward and I look forward to the noble Lord’s response.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their remarks in support of the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. Perhaps I may reflect for a moment. I remember working with both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness during the passage of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, and again I pay tribute to the level of co-operation and indeed the excellence of the debates we had not only on the whole of the statute but specifically on the importance of the issue of sanctions. I am therefore delighted that we have been able to bring forward what my right honourable friend has described as the launch of a global human rights sanctions regime. I thank both noble Lords for welcoming it, as indeed did all Members in the other place.

As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has said, while welcoming the names which have been mentioned—the noble Baroness also referred to the 25 Russian nationals—I believe that they both talked about omissions. I would not term it as such. This is very much the first tranche. Everything has to be based on evidence and, clearly, that evidence is collated. I know that both noble Lords will respect the fact that those who have been designated should be given the opportunity to challenge the designation, and that has been incorporated into this new regime.

On the issue of corruption, which both noble Lords pointed out was not initially included in what we have proposed, as my right honourable friend alluded to in the Statement, this is something that we have already started work on. However, it was important not only to introduce the framework but also to recognise that designations were needed to give strength to what has been laid before Parliament, and therefore I am pleased that this process is under way given that corruption is an issue that we continue to look at, as my right honourable friend has said.

Both noble Lords talked about the recent announcement made with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the arms deal. I believe that the noble Baroness acknowledged the fact that including the names of those who committed the appalling crime of the targeting and assassination of Jamal Khashoggi reflects the deep concern and outrage which was expressed across your Lordships’ House.

I turn to the issue of restarting export licences to Saudi Arabia. My right honourable friend the Trade Secretary has looked at the court ruling and we have adhered to its proposals to make the necessary amendments to our processes. Perhaps I may reassure all noble Lords that we will not issue any export licences when there is a clear risk that the items concerned may be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law. As I have said before, every licence application is rigorously assessed against strict criteria and we will not issue an export licence where to do so would be inconsistent with them.

The new sanctions regime will give the UK a powerful new tool in order to hold to account those who are involved in serious human rights violations or abuses. I can assure noble Lords that we will keep the export licence regime and the controls we exercise under close scrutiny and review. However, we will do so while adhering fully to the points which were raised during the judicial review of the decision.

Both noble Lords rightly talked about the importance of co-operation and working with partners. We have, along with the US and Canada, already engaged in working on the inclusion of similar sanctions on corruption, as the noble Baroness pointed out. We work closely with our Five Eyes partners and I can give her an assurance on her specific point about our partners in Europe. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary recently visited Germany and we are working closely with our EU partners in looking at how the EU can also bring forward a global human rights sanctions regime. However, I know that both noble Lords will agree that any regime in the world can work effectively against those who commit the most heinous crimes and the worst kind of human rights abuses only if we work in tandem and together with other countries. We will continue to emphasise that point as we look to expand the designations further in the future as well as to expand their scope to include issues around corruption, which was mentioned by both noble Lords.

The noble Lords talked about scrutiny. In closing, I assure them that I recognise the range of views expressed by both noble Lords, and in the other place, on the best approach to take to designation proposals. I know that, as can be seen by the list today, many parliamentarians have over a long period continued to engage with the Government—they have engaged directly with me as the Minister for Human Rights—on the importance of bringing forward designations. I also recognise the range of views expressed by parliamentarians on the best approach to implementation, and I am grateful for continuing to hear soundings to this effect.

Let me assure both noble Lords that, in line with the sanctions Act, we will continue to report to Parliament, as required under its Sections 30 and 32. Doing so also provides Parliament with regular moments where Members may scrutinise the actions that the Government have taken in respect of human rights sanctions. There is also provision to debate the laying of these instruments. We are of course working through the usual channels. I understand that there will be a debate in the other place on this very issue on the 16th of this month. There is a 28-day limit from when these provisions were introduced on 6 July, so we will certainly look through the usual channels to have a debate as soon as we return from the Summer Recess. That will be the earliest opportunity, bearing in mind the current challenges in the parliamentary schedule. But this will ensure that we comply and that your Lordships’ House has an opportunity to debate these designations.

Finally on the designations, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, did not mention this, but the words still ring in my ear about the importance of laying a report in this respect. We will continue to fulfil that obligation and review those who have been designated every three years, which was another key point that both noble Lords raised with me during debate on what became the Act.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, we now come to 20 minutes allocated for Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief, so that I can call the maximum number of speakers.

Photo of Lord Garnier Lord Garnier Conservative 2:22 pm, 8th July 2020

My Lords, I warmly welcome this Statement. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that CSOs and NGOs should be able to interact directly with the FCO and parliamentary committees in the designation process? Given Bill Browder’s help in the development of the global human rights sanctions regime, will my noble friend ensure that Interpol more effectively polices the red notice system to prevent authoritarian regimes misusing it for political and commercial advantage?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, my noble and learned friend raises two very important points. First, on the NGOs, we have published an information note aimed specifically at NGOs and civil society organisations, which formally lays out a dialogue with government and allows NGOs to raise their issues directly with us. Prior to this, as the Human Rights Minister I had already had regular engagement with leading NGOs and civil society organisations. On his second point, I, like my noble and learned friend and other noble Lords, pay tribute to Bill Browder and his work in this respect. I assure him that the Government take any misuse of Interpol notices and systems very seriously. Article 3 of the Interpol constitution forbids any organisation undertaking any intervention or activities, be they of a political, military, religious or racial character. Interpol has robust checks and we will make sure that they continue to be upheld.

Photo of Lord Geidt Lord Geidt Crossbench

My Lords, the Minister’s Statement and the remarks of other noble Lords echo the thanks owed to the extraordinary, tenacious advocacy of Bill Browder, often at considerable personal risk. The other published designations, beyond that of Sergei Magnitsky, also reflect a high profile of public concern. There is evidently more to come: consideration of designations against Chinese actors, for example, in other very visible cases would appear to be ripening. Building on the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, can the Minister comment on what measures are intended by Her Majesty’s Government, including through the agency of civil society organisations and NGOs, as just mentioned, actively to hunt down similarly egregious cases of human rights abuses which are far less well known but to which this new regime might equally apply?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, again, I agree with the noble Lord. Through the information notes—and whether through working with colleagues across Parliament, with NGOs or with civil society organisations—we want to ensure that we collect the evidence base, irrespective of who the perpetrator is and wherever they are in the world, so that we can impose these kinds of restrictions on them. They include a travel ban and an asset freeze within the UK. I take careful note of what the noble Lord says, but I assure him that all processes will ensure that there is a robust evidence base behind any designation.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

My Lords, this is a good news story, and I give sincere congratulations to the Government. I pay my own tribute to Bill Browder and the family of Sergei Magnitsky. Is the Minister aware that London is full of legal firms and accountants that are happy to work for those salting away dirty money gained by abuse? Will the Government therefore be meticulous in gathering evidence to sanction kleptocrats and abusers, so that our own crooks in the City cannot take advantage?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, I suppose that I should declare an interest as having had a 20-year career in the City of London. I assure noble Lords that the City of London plays an important part in Britain globally, but the noble Lord is right to raise concerns about money being laundered through bank accounts. As my right honourable friend said, I assure him that part of the real sanctions that will be imposed are the asset freezes on those who commit these human rights abuses.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

My Lords, I join those highlighting the close link between those who abuse human rights and those who are corrupt, so I was interested when the Foreign Secretary mentioned that the Government were considering how a corruption regime could be added to the armoury of legal weapons that we have. But one key tool, long promised, is to remove the ability to own property and businesses in this country through firms registered in secretive tax havens. Do the Government still intend to require public registers of beneficial ownership in British Overseas Territories only in 2023, as Vince Cable was told last year? Why is there such a lax timetable and will a draft order still be ready this December, as required under the 2018 sanctions Act?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, the noble Baroness raises the issue of beneficial and public registers in our overseas territories. As I have said previously, we have made commitments to ensure that our overseas territories comply. The reason for the 2023 date was to allow sufficient time for such public registers to be initiated, because it adds a requirement on every single overseas territory, some of which do not have the technical ability to do so. However, I pay tribute to some of our OTs, which have already co-operated fully with tax authorities and legal authorities through the effective operation of the exchange of notes.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, in declaring my interests as vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary groups on Hong Kong and the Uighurs, I too pay tribute to Bill Browder and warmly welcome the Foreign Secretary’s decision to use Magnitsky powers to target those who themselves use the United Kingdom as a bolthole for their money and families, while abusing human rights in their own jurisdictions. Returning to the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, can the Minister say whether active consideration is now being given to adding Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam to the Magnitsky list, along with Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, in addition to others named in a letter to the Minister of 24 January last, who stand accused of grievous crimes against Muslim Uighurs, Falun Gong and other minorities in China?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, first, I pay tribute to the noble Lord. He and I have often had long discussions about the importance of having such a regime. In paying tribute to the likes of Sergei Magnitsky, who ultimately paid with his life, I also pay tribute to the noble Lord for the work that he does within the human rights field. He asks specifically about China and Hong Kong. I am sure he will accept that I cannot speculate on who might be designated under the sanctions regime in the future. But as I have repeatedly said as Human Rights Minister, we have on many occasions set out deep concerns about human rights violations in both Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Most recently, we had a campaign with 27 countries backing our statement at the Human Rights Council on 30 June.

Photo of Lord Randall of Uxbridge Lord Randall of Uxbridge Conservative

Her Majesty’s Government must be warmly congratulated on these measures. My noble friend has given such extensive replies to previous questions that I think he has already answered mine. However, can he reassure me that we will continue to work with other countries to ensure that those who commit human rights abuses will be held to account for their actions?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Labour

My Lords, I join others in congratulating the Government on laying these regulations and in congratulating various people. I add my congratulations to the Minister because his work on human rights has been exemplary and I thank him for it.

Quite often, when people look at who should be sanctioned—the case of Jamal Khashoggi is a good example—the evidence may very well point to people much higher in those regimes. It may be inconvenient for trade or security or other reasons to say that those people will be subject to these sanctions, but if the direction leads to them, it would be very significant. Does the Minister agree?

Does the Minister also agree that some other kinds of assets should be considered? I was horrified when Thaksin Shinawatra, a human rights abuser on an industrial scale in Thailand, was able to buy Manchester City Football Club. That was a way of demonstrating his international purpose and presence. Again, that seems to be an area which the Government should consider.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks on my efforts in this regard, but it is something that has been worked on over many years and my own personal efforts fall to the side when we look at the commitment and ultimate sacrifice by the likes of Sergei Magnitsky, whom we have mentioned already, and Bill Browder, among others.

On the issue of senior people within Administrations and Governments, I think that that bis reflected in the designations we have made in the case of Myanmar, specifically with the generals, and, of course, I stress again the importance of the evidence base.

On other matters that the noble Lord raised as to what can be held within the scope of what tools are used, I make note of what he has said. I believe there are separations of certain things that are done in business, but we should also scrutinise decisions that we take very carefully and make sure that they do not fall foul of this new regime.

Photo of Baroness Sheehan Baroness Sheehan Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development)

My Lords, all too often I hear of the hardship caused by countrywide sanctions which hurt the poorest the most and hamper aid efforts, so I wholeheartedly congratulate the Government on striking a blow targeted against the evildoers. The Minister will know that the Intelligence and Security Committee will help enormously in expanding the list of individuals not currently designated. What is delaying is its constitution?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, I believe that that is going through due process and will be announced in due course. I do not think there is any major delay which I can talk to. On her earlier point, I think she is right. This is the beginning and the first level of designations and we will continue to look at future designations based on the evidence in front of us.

Photo of Baroness Prashar Baroness Prashar Crossbench

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I welcome this announcement and congratulate the Government on this initiative. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said, I hope that it will encourage a value-based foreign policy. I also welcome the fact that the regime will be kept under review and the Government are looking to expand it. Will the Minister please assure the House that the UK will make every effort not to shy away from applying the sanctions evenly and consistently when awkward or difficult situations arise, particularly when economic and trade interests are at stake and there is a danger of accusations of double standards?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, on the initial designations that we made, mention has been made of our trading relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, yet we did not shy away from sanctioning individuals from that country.

Photo of Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Non-affiliated

My Lords, I too pay tribute to Bill Browder. I thank the Minister for presenting the Statement and, through him, commend the actions of the Foreign Secretary who has achieved his lengthy campaign to target laser-like those who torture, murder, disfigure and maim fellow human beings in the quest of power, corruption and cruelty. Will the Minister, who I know is committed to the same pursuit of human rights, assure the House yet again that Communist Party actors in China will be included in future additions to the list of those sanctioned? Will he also commit to applying sufficient resources to the tracing and tracking of ill-gotten assets in these cases?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s final point, it is appropriate that the governance of such a scheme has the support it requires to make it effective. While I have already made a Statement on my opinion and the Government’s view on what is happening in China and Hong Kong, it is not appropriate to speculate on future designations.

On the noble Lord’s earlier point about the role of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has played, I know that this has been a priority for him for a long time. Indeed, it was very much cross-party in the other place when it was initiated. I pay tribute to his personal efforts and have certainly seen since his appointment as Foreign Secretary the personal priority and effort he has put behind ensuring that the promise we made in our manifesto has come to life—today it has.

Photo of Baroness Whitaker Baroness Whitaker Labour

My Lords, the Foreign Secretary said that the United Kingdom will help the world in standing up for human rights. Will he also apply this very commendable aim to the United Kingdom’s conduct towards the dispossessed Chagossians, whose deportation the International Court of Justice agreed was unlawful?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, we have made our position on the British Indian Ocean Territory very clear. The ICJ decision was an advisory opinion which we do not agree with. The ICJ should adjudicate only where both parties have agreed to it. We believe appropriate support was provided at that time, although there were many shortcomings in the way that the Chagossian people themselves were treated, which we have also acknowledged. We wish to work in a progressive way with the Government of Mauritius on ensuring that we build a strong bilateral relationship.

Photo of Lord Balfe Lord Balfe Conservative

My Lords, can the Minister tell us to what extent the Government consulted with their opposite numbers in the EU in drawing up this list and to what extent they just informed them? In the case of additions and deletions to the list, will there be a structure in place for consulting or will it just be a case of informing?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, I have already said that we work and continue to work with our EU partners. The EU does not yet have a global human rights sanctions regime per se. The most effective regimes are when you work together, and that of course means sharing information and an evidence base, so we continue to work with our EU partners, as I have already said.

Photo of Lord Chidgey Lord Chidgey Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I declare an interest as an associate founder of TI UK with whose assistance some years ago I put forward a Private Member’s Bill on corruption which in due course was subsumed into the Government of the day’s legislation.

Before Brexit, the UK was making progress within the EU with the member states on establishing global human rights sanctions. The Minister has already mentioned that he is working closely with some countries. The problem is that there needs to be a consensus in the EU to reach agreement, usually at the lowest common denominator. Can the Minister give us some idea of whether this global human rights initiative is going to accelerate that process or whether it will continue to be delayed?

I have one small point on Africa and extractive industries. Is the legislation that we introduced together with our colleagues overseas actually working? I am not sure that it is.

My final point is about the reaction in the United States where the American Secretary of State has commended the UK for its continued global leadership on the protection and promotion of human rights. Mark Landler of the New York Times is a little more circumspect about this, mentioning that the people on our list are already blacklisted in the US. What arrangements are the Government making with the US State Department jointly to expand the promotion and protection of global human rights?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, in the interests of time, on the noble Lord’s final point, we are working very closely with our partners in the US. I will write to him about extractive industries. On EU sanctions, some countries already have a national sanctions regime and the UK will continue to work with EU partners.

Photo of Lord Dobbs Lord Dobbs Conservative

[Inaudible]—the Government have been able to—[Inaudible]—manifesto commitment the Conservative Party made. If it is to be effective, it must be sustained, consistent and co-ordinated. What are we doing to bring together the international definitions of fundamental terms such as “corruption” and “human rights abuse” so that we can ensure we are all singing from the same song sheet? Can the Minister be more specific and give a little more detail about what measures we are taking to co-ordinate the sanctions with other countries and relevant international organisations?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, in the interests of time I will write to my noble friend on the specifics, but I can assure him that there is co-ordination. We are working with international partners to ensure that the sanctions which are imposed in the UK are reflected by key partners, be they the Five Eyes or other EU partners.

Photo of Lord Truscott Lord Truscott Non-affiliated

My Lords, my question on co-ordination with partners has been quite comprehensively answered by the Minister, so I shall move on to the second part of my question. What criteria are being applied before these sanctions are imposed? Are Her Majesty’s Government seeking to punish individuals or to achieve policy change?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My Lords, the regime is specifically about individuals. It is not taking issue with a country necessarily or the people of that country. This is looking at entities and individuals who commit abuses of global human rights. Specifically within the scope of the application, this means issues that we have talked about before, such as modern slavery, human trafficking, preventing sexual violence and freedom of religion. The consideration of these targets has been published as an information note and I commend it to the noble Lord.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, the time permitted for the Statement has now elapsed.

Sitting suspended.