On July 6, the U.K. did something that it had never done before: it unilaterally sanctioned dozens of individuals across the globe for human rights abuses. Acting pursuant to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018’s human rights provision—also known as the Magnitsky amendment (not to be confused with two U.S. laws by the same name)—the U.K. imposed assets freezes and issued travel bans against a range of bad actors, from Russian nationals involved in the death of accountant Sergei Magnitsky to Saudi nationals responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, to individuals and groups responsible for systemic violence in Myanmar and North Korea. While the U.K. has long been in the sanctioning business, its discretion over whom to sanction and how quickly to do so was previously limited due to its preference for coordinating sanctions policy through the European Union and often with the United Nations. But now that Britain has formally left the EU and adopted its own independent sanctions legislation, the U.K. has greater reign to sanction whom it wants.
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