Britain urged to impose Magnitsky sanctions on Iranian regime figures

British government on Wednesday rejected use of its nationals for diplomatic leverage

Demonstrators during a London protest against the regime in Tehran. Getty
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Britain is being urged to impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on those involved in the suppression of protests in Iran.

The appeal from David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, comes after seven people with links to the UK were arrested by Iranian authorities. At least some of those detained are understood to be dual UK-Iranian citizens.

Magnitsky sanctions, which target those responsible for human rights offences or corruption, are named after a Ukrainian-born Russian tax adviser responsible for exposing corruption and misconduct by Russian government officials. He was jailed in Russia in 2008 on charges of tax evasion and died in prison the following year.

Months after leaving the EU, the UK in July 2020 introduced the Global Human Rights Sanctions regime, which targets human rights abuses with punitive measures. It was nicknamed a Magnitsky-style sanctions regime and had similarities to the US system introduced in 2013 in response to the death of the Russian whistleblower.

Mr Lammy called on the UK government to get tougher on Iran as authorities continue to crack down on peaceful protesters more than 100 days after demonstrations began following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.

“The killings and repression being carried out by the Iranian regime against courageous Iranian protesters seeking a better future is appalling,” he said.

“There must be an end to impunity.

“The UK government urgently needs to put in place new Magnitsky sanctions against individuals and organisations involved in the repression.

Protests in Iran — in pictures

“The Iranian regime must be held accountable for every crime it has committed through an urgent investigation by the UN Human Rights Council.”

The UK government recently ushered in a new wave of sanctions on Iran over its response to protests.

On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted that the UK would “hold the tyrants in Iran to account” as he set out the British response to the country’s actions.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it had arrested seven people involved in the protests who have a “direct link” to Britain.

It said the arrests reflected the UK's “destructive role” in recent protests.

It said some members of the network had dual nationality.

Asked by The National for the Prime Minister’s response to the accusation, Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said on Wednesday: “We obviously reject that categorisation.”

He added that “the violence being levelled against protesters is appalling”.

“We fundamentally believe in the right of people to protest,” he said.

Asked about the fate of British detainees in Iran, he said the government is “urgently seeking further information from the Iranian authorities” on their welfare.

“We have always said we will never accept our nationals being used for diplomatic leverage," he said.

Updated: December 28, 2022, 1:56 PM