Pursuant to the recently passed Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) (see previous blog here), Canada has imposed targeted sanctions on 52 foreign nationals (including 30 Russians) by enacting the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Regulations. The Regulations were made in response to three different sets of circumstances, namely, “the case of Sergei Magnitsky, and incidents of corruption and gross human rights violations by officials linked to the Maduro regime and by officials in South Sudan”, see here.
The Regulations prohibit any person in Canada, or any Canadian outside of Canada, from dealing, directly or indirectly, with any of the listed foreign nationals.
In response to the measures, Russian authorities have imposed a ban on a number of Canadian public figures from entering Russia (without specifying who has been affected).
The Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law), a Canadian bill which provides for restrictive measures to be taken against foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognised human rights, has received Royal Assent.
Under the law, foreign nationals will be subject to restrictive measures if they are found to have been responsible for, or complicit in, “gross violations of internationally recognised human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country” who seek to “expose illegal activity carried out by government officials”, or to “obtain, exercise, defend or promote internationally recognised human rights and freedoms”. The law also targets foreign nationals involved in acts of “significant corruption”.
Similar laws were passed in the US (see previous blog here) and Estonia (see previous blog here). In the UK, the Criminal Finances Act 2017 was passed, however, the relevant sections dealing with ‘Magnitsky-style’ sanctions have yet to come into force.
Canada, like the USA, has imposed sanctions on senior Venezuelan officials and supporters of the Venezuelan government (see previous blog). The listings target 40 people, including President Nicolas Maduro, members of his cabinet, and members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland echoed the US description of Venezuela as a “dictatorship”, and said that it was “important to send a signal to the leaders of the Maduro regime that their actions are unacceptable”.
The Canadian government has said that it supports a draft bill which, if passed through the Canadian legislature, would impose sanctions on human rights violators anywhere in the world. The “Magnitsky-style” sanctions were recommended by a Canadian Parliamentary committee last month (see previous blog). A Russian official responded to the Canadian government’s endorsement of the bill by saying that it would “not be left unanswered”. The US, UK, and several other countries have already introduced Magnitsky sanctions on human rights violators in Russia and elsewhere.
Canada has sanctioned 27 of Syria’s top government officials, in an effort to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the violence against civilians in his country. The new sanctions, which follow a lethal chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria’s Idlib province earlier this month, impose an asset freeze on the 27 officials and prohibit people and entities from dealing with them. The Canadian government’s press release is here.
A parliamentary committee in Canada has recommended that the Canadian government follow the US, UK, and several other countries in imposing sanctions on people involved in gross human rights violations (see previous blog) as an amendment to the Special Economic Measures Act. This report is part of the current review of that Act and the Freeing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (see previous blog). One example is the “Magnitsky” sanctions named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, whose death in Russian custody in 2009 prompted the US to introduce the first sanctions of this kind. The US Congress recently approved expanding the scope of those measures to have effect worldwide. A link to the Canadian House of Commons Report is here.
The Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs is reviewing Canada’s Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act and Special Economic Measures Act, 2 key pieces of sanctions legislation, including the process for designations, enforcement and monitoring mechanisms, and the overall impact of the sanctions. The Committee also intends to assess the role and effectiveness of sanctions as a foreign policy tool and Canada’s broader strategic approach to imposing sanctions.
Maya Lester QC will give evidence to the Committee by videolink on 2 November 2016. The press release is here and the list of witnesses here.
Update 04/11/16: Maya Lester’s evidence is to the committee is now available here.
Canada will lift its sanctions on Belarus, following similar action in the EU, US, and Switzerland. While Canada completes the regulatory process necessary to remove Belarus from the Area Control List by which the sanctions are imposed, it has said that it will normally issue export permits for the export of goods to Belarus, provided they are not listed on the Export Control List.
In its press release, the Canadian government said that its decision was “in response to recent positive developments in Belarus” and that it “will continue to monitor the evolving situation”.