The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has published its Sanctions Regulations Report on Annual Reviews for 2021, as required under section 30 of the Sanctions and Anti Money Laundering Act 2018 (SAMLA). This is separate to the OFSI annual review (see our previous post here).

The Report helpfully provides a consolidated overview of how UK sanctions work, including trade, financial, transport and immigrations sanctions as well as exceptions and licensing. Since the end of the Brexit transition period, the UK has implemented autonomous regimes in addition to transposing EU regimes (some with keys differences). The UK currently has 18 sanctions regimes, 12 mixed UK/UN regimes, and 6 UN-only regimes. The Report provides a timeline of sanctions programme implementation since the end of the transition period to December 2021. The Report also gives a useful infographic on the targeted sanctions regimes, including the number of listed persons under each regime. The highest numbers designated are under the Syria (282 individuals and 70 entities) and ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida regimes (262 individuals and 89 entities). Some regimes which remain in place and continue to permit designation where appropriate do not currently include any listings, such as Burundi and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The 2021 Annual Review of Sanctions Regulations 

Under SAMLA, an annual review is required of each set of sanctions regulations to ensure they are still appropriate for the purpose for which they were created. Set out as an Annex to the Report, the Annex covers the UK country sanctions regimes as well as broader regimes such as Cyber and Global Human Rights sanctions. Interestingly the Annex does not, however, cover the Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions, but these measures are briefly discussed within the body of the Report.

The Annex provides insights into the purpose of the sanctions and the geopolitical context, as well as clues as to what factors the UK Government will consider to either strengthen or relax sanctions in various regimes, for example:

  • Belarus Sanctions – continued imposition of sanctions is a “reasonable course of action for the purpose of encouraging” Belarusian authorities to respect democratic principles, the separation of powers and the rule of law, and comply with international human rights laws. The UK significantly strengthened its Belarus sanctions in June and August 2021, followed by further designations in December 2021. According to the Annex, since the 2020 annual review, the situation in Belarus has deteriorated and therefore the sanctions will remain in place until the UK Government is assured that the human rights situation has improved. (See our alert here on UK Belarus sanctions).
  • Burundi Sanctions – since the election in May 2020 led to a peaceful transfer of power, the immediate political crisis ended. However the sanctions remain in place to be used if necessary to encourage the Government of Burundi to respect democracy, the rule of law and good governance, as the UK Government “remains concerned” with alleged human rights violations in the country. However, as mentioned above, there are currently no persons listed under the regime.
  • Myanmar Sanctions – the sanctions regime was updated following the February 2021 military coup, aimed to promote peace and stability in Myanmar, ensure respect for democracy, good governance and the rule of law and human rights. The Review sets out the continued human rights violations taking place in the country and concludes that maintaining the sanctions remains a reasonable tool to encourage cessation of violence and a “return to peace, law and order that respects the results of the November 2020 election and accepts the wishes of the people of Myanmar.”
  • Russia Sanctions – these were initially implemented through the EU sanctions in 2014 to address Russia’s actions in destabilising Ukraine and undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. The Annex concludes that the situation in Ukraine has deteriorated in 2021 following further Russian military activity.  The sanctions will remain in place until Russia implements its commitments regarding Ukraine and ends its illegal annexation of Crimea. As the Annex states, “Any diminution of sanctions against Russia at this time would be seen as an acceptance of the Russian annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and Russia’s destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. It would also undermine the pressure on Russia to comply in full with the Minsk agreements.”
  • Global Human Rights Sanctions – put in place in 2020, the Global Human rights sanctions seeks to deter and provide accountability for those involved in serious human rights violations or abuses around the world. The Annex states that protection and promotion of human rights is a UK national interest, as human rights violations can perpetuate conflict and contribute to terrorism. The human rights sanctions focus in particular on (a) the right to life, (b) the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and (c) the right to be free from slavery, not to be held in servitude or required to perform forced or compulsory labour, as some of the most devastating on individuals and societies and also as “reflective” of the human rights sanctions regimes of partners such as the US, Canada and the EU.