Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:57 pm on 29th July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Labour 5:57 pm, 29th July 2020

My Lords, I congratulate the Government and pay tribute to Bill Browder, the original architect of the Magnitsky law. He really has changed the possibilities for international law.

Unfortunately, many human rights abusers choose to lay down assets in this country. This is a key travel destination, a place where assets may be situated, such as glamorous houses in Belgravia or Hampstead, and occupying a central position in the global financial system makes a country particularly attractive. It is also a good place to educate your children.

Using their great diplomatic heft, will the Government persuade other countries to come together also to create Magnitsky law? We have spoken about the possibility of Australia, but could we include Japan and Sweden? There is resistance to the European Union from people such as Orbán and the reinstated president of Poland. Can we use our great energy to bring them on board?

Turning to the unjust treatment of journalists, this Government have also taken the lead in a global campaign on media freedom. Over 130 journalists have been killed in the last two years. Journalists are persecuted in many ways; extrajudical killing, torture, abductions, trumped-up charges and frivolous lawsuits. Can the Minister reassure me that the unjust imprisonment of journalists will meet the threshold for sanctions, and that prosecutors and judges as well as officials could be sanctioned? Can he also confirm that this new regime will be used against non-state actors, such as companies as well as individuals? We know that people often hide their assets behind a facade of companies. Can he confirm that the regime will apply to secondary participants, including those who are complicit in abuses? Mention has been made of banks and others that make it possible for people to hide assets. Should the Government not be creating an expert committee, independent of the executive branch of Government, to determine who should be sanctioned, over and above those whom I have already mentioned?