UK House of Commons Passes the Magnitsky Asset Freezing Sanctions

Published: 21 February 2017

Sergei MagnitskySergei Magnitsky (Photo: VOA)

By N'dea Akei Yancey-Bragg

The UK House of Commons unanimously passed legislation Tuesday thatif adopted by the House of Lordswill allow the government to freeze the assets of international human rights violators in the UK.

The UK would be the third country, after Estonia and the United States, to pass Magnitsky Sanctions legislation.

The Magnitsky amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill expands the current definition of unlawful conduct to include human rights abuses. It applies to those who financially profited from or materially assisted in these abuses.

The measure also protects whistleblowers inspired by the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and auditor who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after investigating fraud committed by Russian tax officials.

"We have have to stop turning a blind eye to the blood money of butchers and despots which frankly flows all too freely through some British businesses, banks and property," said MP Dominic Raab who proposed one version of this bill during Tuesday’s debate.

"The new Magnitsky Sanctions Legislation is going to cause perceptible fear for kleptocrats in Russia and other authoritarian regimes. They all have expensive properties in London and think they are untouchable," said William Browder, leader of the global Magnitsky Justice Campaign.

In December of 2012 the US passed the Magnitsky Act which barred Russian officials involved in Magnitsky’s death from entering the country or using its banking system.

Estonia passed the law in 2016 and Canada and the EU are currently considering their own versions of the act.