The House of Commons will vote tomorrow on the Magnitsky legislative initiative which seeks to freeze the UK assets of alleged human rights violators from anywhere in the world.
The initiative is presented as an amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill which was introduced to the parliament last October to strengthen and improve the enforcement of the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The Magnitsky initiative comes in two forms. Firstly, the Dominic Raab MP version, supported by a cross-party coalition of MPs, which allows both the British government or third parties to go to court to seek asset freezes of human rights abusers. Secondly, the government’s version, which keeps the asset freezing power solely in the hands of the government.
Both versions cover conduct which occurred outside UK and would be illegal in the UK.
The initiative is named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured and killed in Russian police custody after blowing the whistle on a $230m fraud perpetrated by Russian government officials and organised criminals. Magnitsky had been working for financier William Browder before he was imprisoned.
"This legislation hits kleptocrats where it counts. Nearly every tin-pot dictator who tortures and kills in their own country has an expensive home in London. These people shouldn't be given sanctuary in the UK. This legislation is also an important tribute to the legacy of Sergei Magnitsky and a powerful instrument protecting whistleblowers," said Browder, leader of the Global Magnitsky Justice campaign.
The bill is being considered tat the report stage and third reading. Browder is hopeful that the government's version will at least be passed. He told City A.M.: “That outcome would be good while it would be great to have the Raab version passed too.”
If the Magnitsky initiative pass into law, the UK will be the third country in the world to impose Magnitsky type sanctions.
The new legislation will protect whistleblowers and human rights defenders identified as those "seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by a public official" or "obtain/defend human rights and fundamental freedoms".
It would apply to individuals who financially profited from or materially assisted the human rights violations. It applies to torture whether it occurred before or after the law is enacted.
The UK's Magnitsky amendment was sponsored by Dominic Raab MP (Conservative), Dame Margaret Hodge MP (Labour), Tom Brake MP (Liberal Democrat), Ian Blackford MP (SNP), Douglas Carswell MP (UKIP), Caroline Lucas MP (Green), and Sammy Wilson MP (Democratic Unionist), and supported by a total of 50 MPs.
The proposed legislation modifies the current definition of unlawful conduct under Part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act to include human rights abuse. This allows for civil recovery proceedings to be brought with regard to property belonging to human rights violators.