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UK adds 11 new individuals to sanctions list for human rights abuses

The UK has added 11 new individuals to its sanctions list over human rights abuses, bringing the total number of people on the list to 65. This comes amidst Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing that a no deal Brexit is “very likely”, which means the EU sanctions list will not apply to the UK. Those on the list face travel bans and economic sanctions such as asset freezes.

New names

Former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has been added for reasons of “inciting, promoting, ordering and being directly involved in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, kidnappings, torture, rape, as well as wider human rights violations.” Jammeh seized power after a 1994 coup, but fled after his election defeat in 2016 and has sought exile in Equatorial Guinea. Jammeh is one of three who have been sanctioned from Gambia, the second being his wife Zineb Jammeh, former First Lady of Gambia, and also Yankuba Badjie, former Director General of the Gambian National Intelligence Agency. Zineb Jammeh’s sanctions are for the same reasons as her husband, but also for using charities as a cover for the illicit transfer of funds. In October 2017, Gambian and international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watched launched the “Campaign to Bring Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice” (#Jammeh2Justice), which called for the prosecution of the former president and his accomplices for their human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.

Other names added include one from Pakistan, Anwar Ahmad Khan, Former Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in Malir District, Karachi. He is sanctioned for overseeing “aggressive practices”, suspected of being behind almost 200 “hits” that led to the deaths of more than 400 people. He is known as the “encounter specialist” of the Sindh Police due to his extrajudicial killings, having allegedly carried out at least 444 killings between 2011 and 2018. He was suspended from the police in January 2018, and blacklisted by the United States Department of the Treasury in December 2019.

Three people have been sanctioned from Venezuela: Rafael Bastardo, former Commander of Special Action Forces, Remigio Ceballos Ichaso, Head of the Strategic Command Operations of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, and Fabio Zavarse Pabon, Commander of the National Guard. These senior security figures have received sanctions for “human rights violations in Maduro’s illegitimate regime”, according to the Foreign Office. 

Lastly, travel bans and asset freezes are to be imposed on three individuals from Russia and the Terek Special Rapid Response Unit, responsible for “torture and other human rights violations against LGBTQ people in Chechnya.” The three individuals are Magomed Daudov, Spokesperson/Chairperson of the Parliament of the Chechen Republic, Aiub Kataev, Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation in Argun, and Apti Alaudinov, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic and Major General of the Police.

Allyship with the US

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that “the sanctions send a clear message to human rights violators that the UK will hold them to account.”

“The UK and our allies are shining a light on the severe and systematic human rights violations perpetrated by those sanctioned today. Global Britain will stand up for democracy, human rights and the rule of law as a force for good in the world,” he added.

The UK sanctions were announced on International Human Rights Day (10 December), at the same time as the US announced similar sanctions. This is the second time the UK and the US have worked together to sanction similar individuals and organisations. In total from yesterday, the UK and US designated 31 actors for their involvement in major human rights abuses. 

The US also sanctioned individuals from Russia, the most prominent being Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic. Kadyrov is sanctioned for “being a foreign person who is a leader of an organization, the Kadyrovtsy, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuses,” according to the US Treasury. Five other individuals linked to Kadyrov have been sanctioned, including Vakhit Usmayev, the Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya, as well as six Russian companies.

Three individuals from Haiti have been sanctioned, the first being Jimmy Cherizier, leader of an alliance of nine Haitian gangs known as the G9 alliance, for his role in gang attacks and deaths of civilians. Most notably in his former role as a Haitian National Police officer, he planned and participated in the La Saline attack in 2018, where 71 people were killed, over 400 houses were destroyed and many women were raped by armed gangs. Fednel Monchery, former Director General of the Ministry of the Interior and Local Authorities, was also sanctioned for his role in the La Saline attack, accused of supplying weapons to the gangs who carried out the attacks. The third sanctioned individual is Joseph Pierre Richard Duplan, who was President Jovenel Moïse’s Departmental Delegate at the time of La Saline, accused of being the “intellectual architect” of the violence.

The US has also given sanctions to figures from the Houthi-controlled security apparatus in Yemen, for committing “serious human rights abuses, engaging in the prevailing practice of the arbitrary detention and torture of its citizens.” Sultan Zabin, Director of the Sana’a CID, and Abdul Hakim al-Khaiwani, Deputy Minister of the Interior, face sanctions for implenting policy that “was used as a tool for repression and violence”, such as illegal arrests, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, rape and torture against politically active women who oppose the Houthis. 

Abdul Rahab Jarfan, Houthi member and head of the National Security Bureau, and Deputy Head Motlaq Amer al-Marrani, were sanctioned for torturing detainees. Additionally, al-Marrani “played a significant role in the arrest, detention and ill treatment of humanitarian workers and other authorities working on providing humanitarian assistance.” Finally, former Political Security Organisation (PSO) Director Qader al-Shami has been sanctioned for “the regular practice of illegal detention and torture of prisoners, including children.” There are reportedly at least 30 people who have been sentenced to death following their detention by the PSO. 

Brexit Implications

Whilst the UK boasts of its allyship with the US against human rights abusers, it comes amidst the prospect of a no deal Brexit, meaning the UK must work to fill the gap of EU sanctions that it will no longer be obliged to. On 7 December, the Council of the EU announced the introduction of its own “new global human rights sanctions regime”, as part of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024. The new framework widens travel bans and asset freezes on individuals and entities responsible for or involved in serious human rights abuses, and this is directly applicable to all EU Member States.

As the UK will no longer be party to this, the government has developed its own post-Brexit framework, but it remains to be seen how closely it follows the EU’s list of designations. The UK’s sanction list published on 10 December is the third of the UK-only sanctions, the first being in July 2020 and the second in September 2020. 

The UK government calls this the “UK’s global human rights regime”, as the UK and EU pursue “independent sanctions policies” according to Dominic Raab. 

As EU sanctions will no longer apply, the UK is set to pass a Sanctions Act at the end of the transitional period (31 December 2020), with work “underway” to decide which EU listings will be transferred into UK law. The government will review and report to Parliament on the effectiveness of sanctions each year, and review designations every three years.

The worry is that the UK can choose to not include individuals or companies that are subject to EU sanctions, but the Foreign Secretary has said that “international cooperation will remain at the heart of sanctions policy, and the UK continue to coordinate closely with our European and other international partners.”

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