Britain uses new sanction powers to punish Saudi officials implicated in Jamal Khashoggi's death

Amy Jones
Dominic Raab has announced the new sanctions - JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images/JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images

The UK has used its first “Maginsky-style” powers to punish three Saudi officials implicated in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi who have faced no sanctions from other nations.

Those implicated in the death of the journalist in Istanbul will receive travel bans and have their assets frozen, as Dominic Raab warned that Britain would seize the “blood-drenched ill-gotten gains” of those who abuse human rights.

The most senior official to be sanctioned for the first time is Ahmed Hassan Mohammed Al Asiri, who held the post of deputy head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service.

The Foreign Office identified him as “a senior official involved in commissioning the 15 man team sent to Turkey to kill" Mr Khashoggi.

He is currently being tried in absentia in Turkey for instigating “premeditated murder with monstrous intent” alongside former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani.

Also sanctioned for the first time are two former workers for the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul; Mufleh Al Musleh, who is believed to have provided support to the team sent to kill the columnist, and Ahmad Abdullah Al Muzaini, who the Foreign Office believe helped facilitate the killing.

They are also among the suspects on trial in absentia for Mr Khashoggi's murder.

In total, Britain has sanctioned 20 Saudis involved in the murder that took place in Istanbul’s Saudi Consulate in 2018, as well as 25 Russian nationals linked to the mistreatment of tax adviser Sergei Magnitsky.

In a Commons statement, the Foreign Secretary said that two senior Burmese generals involved in the brutal suppression of the Muslim Rohingya population and two organisations linked with North Korea's gulags will also be subject designations.

Announcing the 49 individuals and organisations sanctioned, Mr Raab said: “This Government and this House sends a very clear message on behalf of the British people that those with blood on their hands, the thugs of despots, the henchmen of dictators will not be free to waltz into this country to buy up property on the King's Road, to do their Christmas shopping in Knightsbridge or frankly to siphon dirty money through British banks or other financial institutions.”

In the past, the UK has almost always imposed sanctions collectively as a member of the United Nations or the European Union.

However, Mr Raab introduced a separate sanctions framework for the UK, following Britain’s departure from the EU in January.

The regime is contained in secondary legislation under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 and covers those involved in assassinations and extra-judicial killing, those involved in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and those linked to slavery, servitude or forced labour.

Mr Raab said that the Government was looking at ways to expand the regime to cover further human rights abuses, with more sanctions expected in the coming months.

Dominic Raab met with Sergei Magnitsky's friends and family shortly after his Commons statement - PIPPA FOWLES/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images/PIPPA FOWLES/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images

Some Tory MPs questioned why there had been “silence” on violations in China.

“There is no, as yet, announcement on any sanctions of those who are either exploiting or abusing illegal minorities in Xinjiang or indeed, repressing democracy activists in Hong Kong,” chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat noted.

The Foreign Secretary said that he would “consider” such suggestions “very carefully based on the evidence”.

However, he said he did not want to “preempt what the next wave of designations will be”.

Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith suggested the chief executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam should be sanctioned under the new regime.

Ms Lam has presided over the country’s clampdown on democracy demonstrations, with many fearing a new national security law from Beijing could lead to human rights abuses.

Sir Iain asked the Foreign Secretary if he would be prepared to follow through with sanctions “no matter who these individuals are, no matter how high they go, even if that means starting with Carrie Lam, whose family I understand have the privilege of British passports?”

Mr Raab said that he expected to receive a “whole range of suggestions” and insisted the Government would proceed in a “rigorous way”.

Following the Commons announcement, Mr Raab met with the widow and son of Mr Magnitsky, who inspired the new sanctions regime.

The tax auditor died after 11 months of mistreatment in police custody in 2009 after raising allegations over tax fraud perpetrated by officials in Russia.

His friend and colleague Bill Browder, who has led the campaign for justice over his death, also met with the Foreign Secretary, heralding the announcement as a "real milestone".

"Once you get onto a sanctions list you become a non-person in the world of finance. You can't do business with anybody," Mr Browder said.

"It is probably the worst thing that can happen to people who are very wealthy. These are rich government officials who made their made their money through graft and theft and imprisonment."

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