WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Helsinki Commision, and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Co-Chairman, released the following statement after the recent designations under the United Kingdom’s Magnitsky sanctions framework of Russian and Saudi officials responsible for the deaths of Sergei Magnitsky and Jamal Khashoggi,
“We are encouraged to see the United Kingdom applying its first-ever independent Magnitsky sanctions. These sanctions demonstrate that following Brexit, the UK remains committed to fighting human rights abuse and kleptocracy.
“We hope the UK will continue to apply Magnitsky sanctions as needed and develop additional anti-corruption policies to stem the flow of illicit wealth into the country. We also encourage the European Union to move forward on plans to develop its own Magnitsky sanctions. Consequences for bad acts are most effective when imposed in concert.”
The UK passed its Magnitsky sanctions law in 2018. That same year, Russia attempted to assassinate Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent who spied for the UK, in Salisbury, England.
UK Magnitsky sanctions freeze the assets of designees and prevent them from entering the country, and are expected to be a powerful deterrent for kleptocrats, given the propensity of corrupt officials to steal and launder money into London as well as send their children to British boarding schools.
In December 2019, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell announced that the EU would start preparatory work for the equivalent of a Magnitsky sanctions mechanism. However, no further progress has been reported.
In May 2020, Senators Cardin and Wicker urged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask High Representative Borrell to expedite the adoption of EU sanctions on human rights abusers and include provisions for sanctioning corruption.