Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson and MP for Orkney and Shetland, Alistair Carmichael, has today welcomed the creation of a system of Magnitsky-style sanctions by the UK government, to target individuals rather than states in response to human rights abuses and other illegal activities. Mr Carmichael noted that the first iteration of the scheme does not target any representatives of the Chinese government who may be involved in human rights abuses and called for urgent attention to this area.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“Can I congratulate him on what I think will be seen in years to come as a watershed moment in the development of human rights law. I think he’s absolutely right to focus on the most clamant cases, but I hope that that does now free up time and resource in the Foreign Office to turn their attention towards those in China and Hong Kong for whom sanctions would appear to be the logical next step.
“The Foreign Secretary outlines very rightly the role of the courts in due process in ensuring that proper safeguards are put in place here. There is another element here though and that is the role of this House in that regard. The one committee that we are missing at the moment is the Intelligence and Security Committee, so does he agree with me that the announcement that he has made today now demands an early constitution of the Intelligence and Security Committee?”
Responding, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab MP said:
“I thank him for his support. I’m not going to – without proper appraisal – start handing out future designations, but what I can tell him is that one of the delays was to make sure that there was a proper mechanism so that we can assess very judiciously, very carefully any future candidates for designations. He asked about the Intelligence and Security Committee of course, we want to see the Intelligence and Security Committee up and running and once it is duly constituted I think it will have a role in issues like this.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“The establishment of a Magnitsky sanctions regime is a major step, but we must strike while the iron is hot. Those involved in undermining human rights and rule of law in China must be under consideration for sanctions as soon as possible so that we can bring concerted pressure to bear.
“It is equally vital that the Intelligence and Security Committee is reformed as soon as possible. If it is not done before the parliamentary recess then we face the concerning situation of almost a year going by without proper oversight of the UK’s national security regime. This can no longer wait.”