The United Kingdom (UK) government’s launch of Magnitsky style sanctions for human rights must be evenly applied to all state actors engaged in human rights abuses including Bahrain

Beirut / London (07 July 2020) SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR) today urges the UK government to demonstrate its commitment to human rights by extending the provisions of Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 (Regulations) to Bahraini figures allegedly responsible for flagrant human rights abuses who may hold assets in or seek to travel to the UK and to state organisations under their control.

One of the purposes of these Regulations, as set out under article 4 (1) and (2), is ‘to deter, and provide accountability’ for activities which would amount to a serious violation in relation to the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

On 07 July, 2020 the UK Foreign Secretary announcedthe first 49 names of human rights abusers who have been subject to sanctions. The list, which includes North Korean organisations that have facilitated gulags and Myanmarese generals who have committed crimes against humanity against Rohingya civilians, was absent of any Bahraini names.

SALAM DHR calls for the inclusion of officials who direct or have directed the operations of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the NSA itself.  Former detainees have accused NSA officials of having carried out torture, including under the direction of superiors.

While welcoming the measure as an extension to provisions relating to universal jurisdiction, SALAM DHR nevertheless urges the UK government to ensure that its powers to designate individuals or corporate entities are backed, to the extent reasonably possible, by publicly stated and objectively verifiable criteria, to ensure that it is not used arbitrarily. The organisation would welcome clarity on exceptions to the use of the designation in instances relating to ‘national security’, the formal structure and schedule for review and duration of any designation, as well as in relation to a reasonable challenge to any such designation, with a view to overturning it. Where the designation relates to possible acts of torture, SALAM DHR reminds the UK government that such acts are not subject to time limits in international law.

SALAM DHR likewise urges the UK government to consult – privately where relevant – with UK civil society in relation to the collation of information relevant to designation under the Regulations: there are in the UK hundreds, if not thousands of individuals who have been granted asylum in the country on account of conduct directed or overseen by those who could be subject todesignation under these Regulations.

SALAM DHR urges the UK government to convey all designations made under the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations of 2020 to the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) as well as to the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, along with the reasoning for the designation, to the extent this can be made available.

If UK officials find, in the process of determining a designation under these Regulations, that a person could reasonably be accused of having committed a crime against humanity, the UK must do its utmost to facilitate the trial of such person(s) by the International Criminal Court.

The UK and Bahrain have enjoyed a strong relationship, and this places an impetus on the UK to ensure the Bahraini authorities are held to the same standards as other human rights abusers.

SALAM DHR welcomes application of the designation of20 Saudi Arabians who were involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi but urges the government to ensure that it includes the finding of United Nations human rights experts in respect to this and all such cases.

SALAM DHR calls on the government to publicly commit to applying the same thresholds for the application of sanctions to individuals on the merits of their case and be unafraid to designate specific individuals and corporate entities in politically allied countries if they are suspected of having violated the inalienable rights of individuals.

SALAM DHR has contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FOC) to learn more about the scope of the Regulations’ application to Bahrain, the Gulf and globally.