That the Bill be now read a second time.
My Lords, it is impossible to embark on the Second Reading of this Bill without explaining briefly the shocking backdrop to this effort to create legislation which will bar entry to this country to people who are gross abusers of human rights.
Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who acted for William Browder and his company Hermitage Capital Management. Bill Browder’s refusal to bow to the demands of Mr Putin brought state attention to his door and episodes of harassment and intimidation followed. In June and October 2008 Sergei Magnitsky testified before the public investigative committee in Moscow against corrupt officials who were involved in the corporate raid on Hermitage’s offices there which had taken place the previous year.
For having the temerity to challenge the power of the Russian state, Sergei Magnitsky was arrested and detained on trumped-up charges. The conditions in which he was held in pre-trial detention were horrendous: freezing cells, open sewage running underfoot and beds in such short supply that prisoners were forced to sleep in them in shifts. Sergei Magnitsky became very ill but was denied proper medical treatment. His family’s entreaties were ignored. He was kept permanently handcuffed and regularly struck with rubber truncheons. He was eventually found dead in his cell with injuries which were consistent with a final and hellish beating. It beggars belief that four years after his death he was tried—I suppose they would call it a trial in your absence—and convicted, having been posthumously prosecuted by the Russian state. The authoritarianism of Putin’s state reaches beyond the grave. Of course, what it was really doing was seeking to justify the cruelty that had been exacted by it against a lawyer who dared to stand up for the rule of law.
Those who were responsible for this catalogue of abuse have since been honoured by the Russian state and have hugely enriched themselves through fraud, using Hermitage as a cover. Sergei’s death left a mother, a wife and two children to grieve, as well as a devoted friend and client who was not going to take what happened lying down. Bill Browder is the only financier and banker I know who has turned into a dedicated, full-on, full-time human rights activist. Since Sergei’s death William Browder has worked tirelessly to secure justice. He has campaigned against the impunity which is enjoyed by the officials who committed those gross acts of inhumanity. Knowing that Russia under Putin will never prosecute those who jailed, persecuted and ultimately killed Sergei, Browder has lobbied and campaigned and urged other nations to deny sanctuary to his killers and to create laws which will deny those criminals the enjoyment of travel, the use of ill-gotten gains and the anonymity that which allows them to escape ignominy.
So far, he has persuaded the United States and Canadian Governments to legislate, and it is time that we did this, too. This is about creating a Magnitsky law. Human rights violators like those who murdered Magnitsky exist in other nations, too. In Sudan, there are generals like Salah Gosh, who was identified by a UN panel of experts as an individual who should be subject to sanctions because of his role in the Darfur atrocities. There is another general, Major General Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein, who has outstanding warrants from the International Criminal Court for his role in crimes of inhumanity and war crimes, all relating to Darfur.
In the Congo we have seen grievous atrocities and the mass rape of women. In parts of the Middle East, too, criminals walk free and come regularly to this country. The generals in Myanmar also come to mind at this time. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights can identify and provide evidence on these violators of human rights. They should not be able to come here, sink their money into expensive properties, have their operations in our private hospitals, send their children to expensive private schools and live in our midst with impunity. Assets can now be frozen. This Bill is to deny them visas.
The US and Canadian Magnitsky Acts contain three distinctive elements that provide a template to be replicated the world over: asset freezes, travel bans and the explicit naming of the individuals whose conduct has led the Government to sanction them. At present, the UK has only the asset-freezing aspect of a Magnitsky law. This was introduced when the Criminal Finances Act, which had a “Magnitsky amendment” attached to it, received Royal Assent in April 2017—this year—having passed through Parliament in the preceding months. This amendment allows the Government to apply to the High Court to have the assets of suspected human rights violators frozen. This leaves the United Kingdom lacking a provision for travel bans and explicit naming procedures.
Under the Immigration Rules as presently constituted, the Home Secretary has a personal, non-statutory power to issue travel bans to individuals on the basis that their exclusion from the United Kingdom is conducive to the public good. Section 3(5)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971 also confers upon the Home Secretary discretionary power to deport anyone if it is deemed to be,
“conducive to the public good”.
I would like us to ask ourselves how often those powers have been used against human rights abusers. However, the current powers allow the Home Secretary to prevent the names of those who have been banned being published. The existence of a specific statutory provision—that is what is being sought here—aimed at sanctioning those involved in human rights abuses will both focus the attention of those applying that law and introduce greater transparency into the exercise of the power to impose visa bans.
The Foreign Affairs Committee published a report in 2011 on the FCO’s human rights work which asserted the value of publicising the names of those who are denied visas to enter the United Kingdom as a means of drawing attention to the UK’s determination to uphold high standards of human rights. Only a few days ago in this Chamber, I participated in a debate about human rights subsequent to Brexit, and we were given guarantees by the Minister from the Dispatch Box that human rights were a central consideration of this Government. Here is a way in which this can be expressed.
Dominic Raab, a Member of Parliament, argued cogently in a Commons debate in February 2015 that the introduction of specific statutory powers would give the public the right to know which individuals were being banned and which were not and would help travel bans act as an effective deterrent to others. We would soon see a chilling effect on the movement of people if they thought that there were going to be problems as they sought entry into this country. The Immigration Control (Gross Human Rights Abuses) Bill would introduce two missing elements of a fully fledged Magnitsky law: explicit powers to ban from the UK those responsible for, and complicit in, gross human rights violations; and transparent naming requirements for those who are banned.
Following the successful campaigns to pass Magnitsky Acts in the United States and Canada, the Russian Government have pursued William Browder through manifold routes, including abuse of Interpol’s international co-operation mechanisms by applying for Red Notice arrest warrants to secure his arrest and extradition to Russia. There have been five separate applications for Mr Browder’s arrest via these means, all of which have been rejected by Interpol.
But what this tells us is that Magnitsky laws are working. They are doing their job. That is why Russia is so determined to go after Bill Browder. One of the great complaints made about international human rights law is that it has insufficient teeth. This is how you give teeth to our international commitments. I strongly commend this Bill to the House and beg to move.
My Lords, I thank and applaud the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, for introducing this Bill on a profoundly important subject. As the House well knows, she brings phenomenal experience as a distinguished lawyer and advocate, renowned for fiercely championing human rights and civil liberties. Her admirable work, past and present, includes six years as chair of the British Council, where I had the privilege of being a deputy chair for some of that time. I well recall her relentless and inspiring focus on human rights and the rule of law—quite a fresh perspective and energy for the British Council, and so hugely important and relevant. She has sat on any number of committees in the most distinguished fashion: as the chair of Justice, a trustee of Refuge and, most recently, leading Mansfield College splendidly as principal for the last six years. She will of course have a long-term legacy in the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, which opened in October this year. The institute will provide a distinguished forum for human rights scholarship and we look forward to the world-class events, research and policy developments it will surely generate.
Respect for human rights is at the heart of our constitution and culture. As the late Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the first judge of the modern era to be Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and Senior Law Lord, and the first professional judge to be named Knight of the Garter, said:
“In a world divided by differences of nationality, race, colour, religion and wealth”,
the rule of law,
“is one of the greatest unifying factors, perhaps the greatest, the nearest we are likely to approach to a universal secular religion”.
This House is well aware that discussion on legislation against violators of human rights has been ongoing here and internationally for many years. As the noble Baroness—and my friend—said, since the tragic death of Russian lawyer and auditor Sergei Magnitsky, the matter has been given fresh intensity. After uncovering an alleged £150 million fraud by Russian officials, in 2008 Mr Magnitsky was incarcerated in a Moscow prison without trial. As the noble Baroness said, during his detention he was wilfully subjected to torture and received delayed and inadequate treatment for pancreatitis. After 358 days in jail, he died in 2009.
Sergei, as has been said, worked as legal adviser to Hermitage Capital Management, an investment fund and asset management company specialising in Russian markets. The founder and chief executive of this company, Bill Browder, has been unrelenting in his dedication to campaigning for legislation pursuing those responsible for Sergei Magnitsky’s death, and penalising others acting similarly. As the noble Baroness said, he has become a full-time human rights campaigner. So many in business facing adversity move the other way and look at the commercial interests; it is never good for business to become a difficult person, a thorn in the flesh or a relentless campaigner. It is so much easier to move on and create more wealth, and maybe dedicate some of that to philanthropic causes, but Bill Browder is an example to us all in his tenacity, courage, persuasiveness and determination.
Bill Browder was the driving force for the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act 2012 in the United States. The purpose of that legislation, as has been said, is to punish the officials responsible for or complicit in Mr Magnitsky’s death by banning them from the United States and denying them access to the American banking system. When President Obama signed the Act, another prominent human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson QC, saw it as,
“one of the most important new developments in human rights”.
In the last year, other countries have followed America’s example. Estonia introduced a law inspired by the US position in December 2016, followed this year by Canada in October and Lithuania last month.
Following much campaigning, it was a welcome development when in April this year the Criminal Finances Act 2017, passed unanimously by the House of Commons, contained a Magnitsky Act-inspired provision that allows government to freeze the assets of international human rights violators in the UK. I applaud the cross-party support that led to the Government taking that vital step to prevent those responsible for, and complicit in, these appalling incidents from laundering their ill-gotten assets here in Britain.
Human rights are central to our shared values. We should send the clearest possible message, holding ourselves to the highest standards. We recall the Minister’s excellent speech on the then Criminal Finances Bill earlier in the year. She paid tribute to Sergei Magnitsky and recognised his story as,
“only one example of the many atrocious human rights violations committed globally every year”.—[Official Report, 9/3/17; cols. 1476-77.]
We very much look forward to her response now and hope she will agree to go this extra step.
Additionally, let us not overlook the ongoing depredations, the deprivation and the persecution by some national leaders in particular countries. We have to weep at the causes of the fate of Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, of so many in Syria and for those held back in Zimbabwe over the years. The noble Baroness catalogued a further list of examples where we cannot pass by and take no notice.
I wish that there were, every year in every continent, qualified candidates for the equivalent of the Ibrahim award for African executive leaders who, under challenging circumstances, have developed their countries and strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, paving the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity. We should identify and support the best, but we also have an obligation to target and penalise the worst. Let our law and practice bring an end to the scandal of wrongdoers being welcomed to spend their time and money here without let or hindrance. I support the noble Baroness.
My Lords, I, too, strongly support the Bill and warmly commend the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, on her commitment to this cause and her good fortune in the Private Member’s Bill ballot. As she has explained, essentially it seeks to complete what must surely be accepted by all as a compellingly necessary legislative response to the particular form of gross abuse of human rights to which it is directed.
We addressed part of that response—the monetary part, as has been explained—in the Criminal Finances Act earlier this year, which provides, by way of amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, for the civil recovery of the proceeds of unlawful conduct. That unlawful conduct is now defined, pursuant to the 2017 Act, to include, under the title “gross human rights abuses or violation”, the appalling ill treatment of, in shorthand, whistleblowers and the like. Under the 2002 Act, as now amended, the financial gain from this form of gross human rights abuse can be frozen by establishing a “good arguable case” and recovered by legal action if the case is then established on the balance of probabilities.
Having supported that provision in my speech at Second Reading of the 2017 Bill, when I simply mentioned the name Magnitsky, I received by post a copy of Bill Browder’s book, Red Notice. Generally, one never gets around to reading such unsolicited books, but I was tempted to dip into it by the endorsements on the cover. Tom Stoppard called it,
“a shocking true-life thriller”,
while Lee Child said:
“Reads like a classic thriller … but it’s all true, and it’s a story that needs to be told”.
And so indeed it is. Having picked it up, I could not put it down and I finished it with a deep sense of outrage. Subsequently, I lent it to the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, who described it as the best thriller he had ever read, and now I have it on loan to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti.
The Criminal Finances Act earlier this year dealt only with the material proceeds of that sort of appalling misconduct. As has been explained, United States legislation, which Mr Browder secured previously, prohibited—and surely rightly—the entry of certain individuals to the United States. It is essentially to achieve that that the Bill today is directed, and I applaud it, but there are two questions that are worth raising.
First, Clause 1(1) of the Bill provides for the banning on entry, and so forth, in respect of a third-country national,
“who is known to be, or to have been, involved in”,
the dreadful conduct in question. I would suggest that “known” is a pretty high test. What standard of proof is intended to apply? In what state of mind must the Secretary of State or immigration officer be before he can act as the Bill envisages? For what it is worth—and it may not be much—in a judgment that I gave in the Supreme Court in 2010, in the case of JS (Sri Lanka) v the Home Secretary, on the correct approach to deciding whether an asylum seeker was barred from refugee status as a war criminal under Article 1F(a) of the 1951 convention, we were concerned with the test of whether,
“there are serious reasons for considering”,
the applicant to be a war criminal. In considering what that involved, we concluded that, clearly, a lower standard is required than would be applicable to an actual war crimes trial, but that there was a higher test for exclusion than, say, having “reasonable grounds for suspecting”. We decided that the word “considering” approximated rather to “believing” than to “suspecting”.
I note from the short but helpful Library briefing on the Bill that the Home Office guidance on the approach to Immigration Rule 320(19), the paragraph that provides for an immigration officer to refuse entry if he,
“deems the exclusion of the person from the United Kingdom to be conducive to the public good”,
is that entry must be refused if the person is suspected of crimes against humanity. It is one thing to refuse entry clearance or leave to enter or leave to remain on the basis of mere suspicion, as the guidance suggests, but it is perhaps another thing, as the Bill envisages, to cancel or curtail an existing leave on that basis. At this stage, all I would say is that further thought may need to be given to the word “known”, which is perhaps too exacting a demand to make of the immigration officer and Secretary of State; it may need amendment in Committee.
Secondly, over the past few months, the House has devoted considerable time to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill. Knowing of this impending Private Member’s Bill, it has occurred to me from time to time that its objective could possibly have been encompassed within the sanctions provision in this substantially more comprehensive public Bill. The sanctions Bill has just reached Report in the House. Could and should this further Magnitsky provision now be introduced into that Act? At least, the possibility should be considered—unless, of course, it already has been, and for some reason of which I know nothing, it has been rejected. I suggest that thought be given to that. All that said, I repeat my strong support for introducing this further provision into our law, and I wish the Bill a fair wind.
My Lords, I support this Bill in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, and commend her for introducing it with all the persuasiveness and passion that has made her one of this country’s great advocates. Of course, she is an advocate for great causes, and this is one. It is perhaps particularly ironic that this Bill comes immediately after the last Second Reading, when we talked about unfortunate children at the mercy of events. It was about trying to open the door to enable them to come into this country, to be looked after and cared for. Here we are looking at the horrible fact that there are those who can relatively easily get into this country and bring their ill-gotten gains and indeed families with them, with remarkably little let or hindrance, when they have engaged in some of the most appalling and inhuman practices in their own parts of the world. I am as enthusiastic about dealing with the malefactors as I am in speaking for those who need our care and support.
This Bill is described as a Magnitsky Bill, but of course it is not because that is not the only case. I see the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, in his place and remember that in July 2013 he brought forward the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. There are many other such cases—and I note that the noble Lord is on the speaking list and look forward, as ever, to what he has to say about these things. This is not an isolated case—it is an ongoing, whole attitude and approach of Mr Putin’s regime. One might well say that there is a long history in that country going back to the days of the Soviet Union, where he was also a significant figure. But one of the big differences is that in those days the officials, whatever they did within the Soviet Union, tended to stay there. Now they steal from their own country and their own people and bring their ill-gotten gains and families to this country, inflating house prices in some places and certainly giving themselves a good life and all sorts of possibilities. We are permitting that to happen when we know it is wrong, but we do not have to; there are things we can do about it.
Often when things are happening that we are unhappy about—sadly, there are many of them in the world at this time—we are unable to do anything to make a difference. But it is clear that in this case, we can make a difference. When the Magnitsky Act was passed, the response from Mr Putin and his colleagues was strident: it clearly had had an impact. When he spoke in December 2012 at a press conference, it was clear from what he said and the way he said it that this was really striking home. Indeed, the Russians produced their own anti-Magnitsky Act. It was a strangely ironic thing, because they blocked the adoption of Russian children by people from the United States. There is something seedy, unpleasant and vile about that kind of response, and it tells us something about the spirit from which it comes.
It is clear to me that this is something we can and should do, and I am glad we have the opportunity presented to us to do just that.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness on bringing forward this Bill. It is a pleasure to support it. In her speech, she gave a short description of the circumstances that led to the death of Sergei Magnitsky. I want to reflect a bit on that context, because people are sometimes reluctant to recognise the reality that Russia is not a normal state. It is pretty close to being a mafia state: there are high levels of corruption in all parts of it. Putin’s response to the Magnitsky legislation and the pursuit of Bill Browder indicate that the highest level of government is colluding with the criminality that is in and about the status quo. I wish that members of society here, who can sometimes be found on the expensive yachts of these gangsters, or who think Russia is a country that we can do business with, would think again and bear in mind the character of the people they are proposing to deal with.
As has been said, this is the second half of what one might call the Magnitsky amendment; the first half has already been enacted. I note with interest what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, said. We should look closely at that idea. I hope that we will get the Bill on the statue book, but the big question is whether it will be enforced. I have concern in that area, and I will illustrate them. Dominic Raab, who has taken an interest in this matter, tabled a question in the other place asking,
“if any of the 60 individuals named on the list published by the Commission on Security and Co-operation in Europe, individuals involved in the tax fraud against Hermitage and the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, published in June 2012 have visited the UK in the last year; and if she will disclose the details of any such visits”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/4/13; col 499W.]
Unfortunately, the Minister for Immigration, Mark Harper, replied that it was,
“long-standing policy not to disclose details of records which may be held in relation to arrivals in the United Kingdom. The Home Office Special Cases Directorate is already aware of the individuals on the list and has taken the necessary measures to prevent them being issued visas for travel to the UK”.
That is Mark Harper mark 1, doing quite well by signalling that. Unfortunately, a letter was sent over his signature a few days later to the editor of Hansard stating:
“Although the Special Cases Directorate has taken measures to ensure that applications for travel to the UK are flagged up for careful consideration on a case by case basis, no decision has been made to refuse their leave outright”.
That is disgraceful. To talk about all applications being dealt with,
“on the individual merits of the case in line with our usual practice”—[Official Report, Commons, 9/7/13; col. 2MC.],
is quite chilling. These are not usual cases and they should not be treated as part of the usual practice.
The point was made earlier that these provisions actually work. Freezing assets and denying access to them here are hitting the oligarchs and criminal gangs where it hurts. We should be doing this as a matter of policy, rather than waiting for individual cases to come about. I want not just to support the Bill, but see that it is enforced as a matter of general policy. It gives us a very valuable tool. Coming to London is attractive and refusing that will enable us to make a difference. It is a demonstration of our effective soft power, which is something we should use. I hope that we will do so and that the Bill will become law speedily.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. Some 10 years ago, I asked her to become my mentor. She agreed and has remained my hero for all my working life. I was astounded to read that it was possible for someone who has committed acts of corruption that would have been regarded as unacceptable even in my days in Iran to come to this country. Minutes ago, we were fighting for the right of immigrants who have committed no crime to come to this country. This is an extraordinary contradiction. How is it possible to have laws that allow criminals to come to this country, and bring their money here to launder it? All my life, I thought that by coming to Britain I would have left behind corruption and gross financial indecency of that kind.
I came to this country because I thought that its laws were straight; we knew what was happening; we could trust the banks. We knew that this country would protect those who are needy and would certainly not offer a haven for those who would abuse their positions. It is unacceptable and I beg that we change this attitude. It is dishonourable for me to think that it is acceptable for this country to allow the kind of corruption that has been rife in many countries which we have considered undesirable. Please, my Lords, change your minds.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, on bringing forward the Bill to the House. She has many admirers on all sides of this House and I fully endorse the words of my noble friend Lady Bottomley, who elegantly and succinctly reminded us why we all admire her so much. I too support the Bill and, as I speak lower down the order, I fully endorse comments made by noble Lords on all sides of the House—it is not often that I can say that. I hope that that means I will not have to speak for as long as I might.
I congratulate the Government on adopting the amendment to the Criminal Finances Act, which brought in the first part of the Magnitsky Act but, as other noble Lords have said, this does not go far enough. It is right that, as my honourable friend the Security Minister, Ben Wallace, said,
“we need to make the UK a hostile environment for those seeking to move, hide and use the proceeds of crime and corruption. In an increasingly competitive international marketplace, the UK simply cannot afford to be seen as a haven for dirty money”.
We must go further than that: we must not be a haven for dirty deeds and human rights violations.
The law which the Bill would create has widespread support in this House. Polling has shown that it has popular support in the United Kingdom. It has support across the political divide and is in tune with what has happened in the United States, Canada and other European countries, as other noble Lords have already mentioned. More than five years ago, a motion was unanimously passed in the House of Commons calling for visa and economic restrictions on Russian officials involved in the original crimes uncovered by Magnitsky and in the cover-up since his death. A month later, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee issued recommendations to make public the list of banned human rights violators, with reference to the Magnitsky case.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, also referred to the Home Secretary’s overarching power to refuse or remove those whose presence in the UK would not be conducive to public good. You may therefore ask: what is the need for this law? However, as you have heard from my noble friend Lord Trimble, those bans are rarely published and often, when questions are asked, they are neither confirmed nor denied; there is no naming and shaming and no knowing who is here and who has been allowed in; no light is shed on those who have operated in very dark ways.
Let me quote again Ben Wallace. He said that when dealing with the financial provisions that we now have this measure would,
“send a clear statement that the UK will not stand by and allow those who have committed gross abuses or violations around the world to launder their money here”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/2/17; cols. 975, 881.]
I argue that we need to send a similarly strong signal in relation to the presence of these individuals in the United Kingdom. We have said, “We don’t want your money here”; we need to say, “We don’t want you here either”.
This Bill, however, must not limit itself to the specific and appalling circumstances that the House has heard about today around the death of Sergei Magnitsky, even if it is motivated by that. The Bill must be universally applied. In the United States, initially a limited Magnitsky Act was passed in 2012 to deal with the specific issues and individuals surrounding that case. However, four years later, that Act was made global. It authorised the President—at a time when we had a US President to whom human rights mattered somewhat—to block or revoke visas and impose property sanctions if individuals or entities are responsible for, or acted as an agent for someone responsible for, extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of internationally recognised human rights. A similarly broad Act could and should be adopted by us.
Every day, we see the most heinous human rights abuses committed around the world by the so-called respectable, official and powerful. Officials, politicians and military personnel in Burma have been a particularly horrific case in recent months. This Bill could apply to those at the highest level who commanded such acts, but also to those on the ground who committed such acts. While we must always in the long term seek to bring the perpetrators to justice, either in their home countries or the fora of international courts, in the short term we must send out the strong signal that it cannot be business as usual. Our belief in and commitment to human rights must be clearly visible when people seek to enter the United Kingdom.
This Bill, extending previous legislation, would enable us to say that if you have been known to have committed or been involved in gross human rights abuses—or possibly even wider than that, as we have heard—then Britain will not be a place where you can do business, buy property or holiday. If your children come to study here, you will not be at their graduation. If you have blood on your hands, you will not be doing your Christmas shopping at Harrods. Earlier today, this House discussed refugees and family reunion. For centuries we have quite rightly been a haven for those who flee from human rights violations and abuse. We must never become a haven for those who commit such abuse.
My Lords, I join every other speaker in the House in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, on bringing this Private Member’s Bill to the Floor of the House. I will be with her every step of the way in ensuring that we get as much support as we can to make it pass.
Before I commence the substantive part of my speech, I declare under category 2 of the Register of Lords’ Interests my role as a remunerated chair of the Five Rights campaign, a new human rights campaign.
The Bill is very timely, coming as it does a year after the signing into law in the United States of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, on 23 December 2016. This went a step further than the Magnitsky Act 2012, in bringing the provisions of that Act, which were specifically directed towards Russia, into a global framework so that there would not be impunity anywhere in the world for people who commit human rights violations. We in the UK should be extremely proud that we are trying to move in the same direction today. This Bill will also bring clarity and give teeth to the travel ban aspect, which is currently missing in other legislation, including the Criminal Finances Act, which others have mentioned.
I too have the privilege of knowing Bill Browder and take inspiration from his courageous leadership, which is so frequently absent from commercial life.
In the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, I worked for the Commonwealth Secretariat and had particular responsibility for its good governance, human rights and democracy aspects. That was the period when, for example, the regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe was committing heinous human rights violations. The Commonwealth ministerial action group charged with oversight and powers to sanction countries in that regard knew what was going on. We had verification and Foreign Ministers knew exactly what was happening, yet we sat in utter and complete frustration as international tools and law, as well as United Kingdom law, did not provide us with any ability to stop Robert Mugabe, his henchmen and his wife coming to the UK for medical treatment—or, more likely, to spend their ill-gotten gains in our high-end stores in this capital city.
Another useful example is Pakistan, where an individual called Altaf Hussain was thought to have committed enormous numbers of human rights violations, which he sanctioned while living in self-imposed exile in London. He was a known person of interest to UK law enforcement. There were a minimum of at least 31 charges against him in Pakistan itself, for allegations of murder, money laundering and a multitude of other human rights abuses. However, he was able to preside over and interfere in Pakistani politics with impunity. I have heard a Pakistani describe it as such: he was running something akin to SPECTRE from the Bond movie. This diminished the United Kingdom in the eyes of millions of ordinary non-partisan Pakistanis who were not involved in politics. They read every day of the violations that were occurring—the murder, the torture and the beating of his opponents in Pakistan while he sat here in London. If this Bill had been in place, that could not have happened. It tarnished the reputation of the United Kingdom.
Clause 1(2), which refers to Section 241A of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, is particularly important as it defines “unlawful conduct” more broadly. The UK has long had a reputation for tolerating financial crime and wrongdoing in terms of welcoming people who have ill-gotten gains. But this does not include only the developing world, although the two examples I have used do. It covers many other states too.
As far as I know, London is one of the few cities of the world which has a kleptocracy bus tour, although I understand that the organisers are planning to expand to New York shortly. I took this tour last year with my family, as I saw it as an essential part of my learning and that of my teenage daughter. It was not a pretty sight. I suggest that other noble Lords take this tour—it takes off from Whitehall Place, not very far from here, and takes little more than two hours. It provides a real insight into who owns London, our capital and home to Europe’s largest financial services sector.
Corruption and money laundering is not of itself a gross human rights violation within the ambit of our narrow interpretation of human rights, but the two often go hand in hand, with those who are grossly corrupt often outsourcing their intimidation, torture and murder to others in order to silence public officials who cannot be bought off. If one superimposes a map of gross human rights violations on to a map of corruption in Russia, central Asia or the Caucasus, it is the same states that come up. That applies to other regions of the world as well.
There is secrecy at government level here in the UK that allows us, the public, to never be clear on what basis the wrongdoers are here in the UK. We see in our Library briefing that the then Minister of State for Security and Immigration, James Brokenshire, stated in response to a Written Question that:
“The UK has a long-established practice of not routinely commenting on the details of individual immigration cases”.
This is what the Bill throws light on. We cannot allow that to continue. It suggests that the Government prefer to continue dealing with shady people on the basis of a nod and a wink—presumably on the basis that they are close to people in power that the Government wish to keep sweet and on side. I know that this is not a foreign affairs debate, but I say to the Minister that, if she had heard the condemnation of Saudi Arabia on 16 November in a Statement on Yemen, she would know what I am talking about.
The era of gross hypocrisy on the part of states is over, and the public demand to know what their Government are up to. The US Magnitsky list is an unclassified document, with classified sections as and where necessary, but only on grounds of national security interests and consistent with congressional intent. Legislators can request that names be added and evidence can be obtained from US and non-US sources. This is important, as those on the ground in those rights-violating states are best informed of the facts.
We often find that countries hide behind the excuse that we will leave the sanctions regime to be implemented at the EU and UN levels. While I am highly supportive of smart sanctions, we also need to see our own country rising to the challenge. This Bill would improve and fast-track the ability of UK authorities to take action themselves where international bodies have not reached agreement or are too slow to respond.
I conclude by urging the Government to support this Bill. The year 2018 will be the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It will also be the year when the UK hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting—the first time that the UK will have had that role this century. In a post-Brexit environment, what a powerful signal it would be if the Government followed Canada’s example and incorporated this Bill into law by April 2018.
My Lords, like others, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, on bringing forward this Bill. I am proud to regard her as a friend; she is a hero and a crusader—and in this crusade it is clear that all sides of the House support her. This debate is not about whether human rights abuses take place—we know that they do and we abhor them, but that reaction is not enough. This debate is about what we should to punish those who perpetrate such abuses.
Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to meet Bill Browder. A fellow guest at dinner asked him if he was afraid for his life—a reasonable question, given what had happened to Alexander Litvinenko in a London hotel. But Browder is remarkably sanguine about the possibility of encountering a fatal dose of polonium in his tea. He is far too engaged in his absolute passion for redressing what was done to his lawyer—a young man who was determined to see the right thing done. That is really what we are debating today: whether we in this country should join him in the fight against what Russia did to Sergei Magnitsky and what other countries do to other people all around the world.
Browder’s book, Red Notice, is a remarkable read and, since the copy of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, is out on loan, I am happy to offer mine to anybody interested in reading it. It is a terrifying chronicle of what can go on when a regime becomes, as he puts it,
“a criminal enterprise wielding all the power of a sovereign state”.
Russia is not the only country for which this description is appropriate. We need to stand up against such regimes and, in particular, against the people who exert power within them. As we have heard today, some of those people may even be outside the regimes where wilful abuse is being perpetrated on their behalf.
This country has, as we have heard, introduced an asset ban, but this Bill goes further. It gives the power to refuse entry and to name the criminals who have benefited from their crimes. We know that the UK is a magnet for people with money, and we have heard the sort of things that they like to do here with their cash. Those who perpetrate human rights abuses seem, all too often, to reap rich rewards from their crimes and seek to spend them on luxuries in the West. We should do our very best to stop them. They like to make use of health services and luxury hotels and to get the best education for their children. We should not be making it easy for them to do that.
Yesterday, a television reporter who has decided that she will stand against Putin in the election in March next year, said that,
“people understand that being an opposition figure in Russia means either you get killed, or jailed, or something like that”.
She was remarkably matter of fact about it. That is how things are in Russia. We need to demonstrate that we will not condone such behaviour.
As a result of Bill Browder’s efforts, more than 40 Russians have been named and shamed in the US. We could do that too. If we support this Bill, we will be following, rather than leading—not the best position to be in, but we should nevertheless follow. Our Government seem remarkably sanguine about the fact that Russia was actively involved in trying to influence the result of our referendum. I find that an insult to democracy. However, more than anything, I am opposed to the sort of human rights abuses heaped upon people such as Sergei Magnitsky. We need to support this Bill and fight back.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness. She has an ability to make the issues that she espouses very real to those who listen to her.
Like other noble Lords, I have spotted the paradox of spending a couple of hours discussing allowing refugees’ families and children who are by themselves to seek sanctuary in the UK, yet without this Bill we will not be able to keep out some very bad—I have written “but”; it might be “and”—wealthy people, who buy multi-million pound apartments, spend—I also wrote “Harrods”—and have all the benefits of our society, when their presence here is so offensive.
I too recall the amendment to the then Criminal Finances Bill. Like other noble Lords, it led me to read Bill Browder’s book. I fear that we will provoke an awful lot of books coming our way from others who see that we sometimes read them. Like the noble and learned Lord, my reaction is often not to want to do so. However, it is such a powerful description of what led to his campaign for what one might hope to be the Magnitsky amendment number one, of which this Bill is part two. A drawback of being such a good read is that it is difficult to remember that the book’s content is fact, not fiction, but the fiction is terrifying.
Earlier this morning, the debate on my Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill focused very much on how we wish our country to be, and how we wish it to be perceived. Human rights should, of course, by definition be enjoyed by every human being but, equally, every human being, however powerful, should observe them and apply them. Transparency is a very important factor in that. Therefore, I enthusiastically support the Bill we are discussing.
I have one tiny, not a caveat but rather an observation, on enforcement, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Trimble—namely, should immigration officers have these powers without ministerial approval? I am not always enthusiastic about giving extra powers to the Home Secretary, and there is an issue around whether this might amount to political intervention in a human rights issue. However, I believe that in the US the President is required to submit the Magnitsky list to the appropriate congressional committee. I simply raise this as a process issue, not in any way as opposition. I wish this Bill well. I think it will get a better reception from the Government than my Bill did earlier.
I too congratulate my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws on introducing her Bill, for which she has been so rightly praised, and which has so far had the support of all speakers in this debate.
This Bill enables the refusal of entry or leave to remain in the UK to a non-UK or non-EEA national who is,
“known to be, or to have been, involved in gross human rights abuses”.
Clause 1(2) defines conduct constituting a gross human rights abuse or violation as that in which,
“the three conditions referred to in section 241A of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (gross human rights abuse or violation) are met”.
As has been said, Section 241A of the Proceeds of Crime Act as it stands was inserted into that Act as a result of an amendment to the then Criminal Finances Bill, now an Act, during its passage through the House of Commons. The amendment was referred to as the “Magnitsky amendment” after the Russian lawyer, accountant and whistleblower of that name who died in prison in Moscow in 2009. He had uncovered an alleged $230 million dollar theft from the state budget by Russian tax officials who siphoned off money paid to settle tax bills to senior Russian government officials. After going public in 2008 with his claims, he was arrested by those whose crimes he had uncovered, imprisoned and tortured prior to his death in prison, which I think was shortly before the end of the one-year term during which he could be legally held without trial. The amendment to the then Criminal Finances Bill in 2017 made provision for asset-freezing for those involved in gross human rights abuse. However, as we know, there is still no primary legislation that deals with visa bans for perpetrators of human rights violations.
In 2012, the United States Congress passed the “Magnitsky Act”, which enabled the US Government to impose visa bans and asset freezes, including being barred from using the US banking system, on individuals connected with the case. In 2016, the US Government approved the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which extended the scope of the Magnitsky Act from Russian citizens to individuals who have participated in or benefited from corruption or human rights abuses in any country. Similar legislative provisions have been adopted in the last two years in Estonia, Canada and Lithuania, and are apparently under development in other countries, including France and South Africa.
Questions here in Parliament have asked the Government what action they were taking to reform our Immigration Rules and laws to address, for example, the situation where those in positions of power in Russia are stealing money in that country and are able to come here to spend or hide it through the purchase of expensive property in London, or through having their children in the UK for their education.
The Government’s response to date has been that the current Immigration Rules provide adequate scope to deny entry to perpetrators of human rights abuses on the basis, apparently, that if there is evidence to show that their presence would not be considered conducive to the public good, an individual can be denied entry to the UK, as they would have brought themselves within the scope of the general grounds for refusal in the Immigration Rules. Part 9 of the Home Office Immigration Rules sets out the general grounds for refusal of entry clearance or leave to enter or remain in the UK. The rules state that entry should be refused to a person who is,
“the subject of a deportation order; or … has been convicted of an offence for which they have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment”.
The rules also make provision for refusing entry to a person on grounds that their conduct, character and associations make their exclusion conducive to the public good either on the direction of the Secretary of State or by an immigration officer. The Home Office guidance to immigration officials states that entry should be refused if a person is suspected of crimes against humanity:
“If it is conducive to the public good not to admit a person to the UK because of their character, conduct or associations you must consider refusing entry or leave to remain … Refusal of entry clearance, leave to enter and leave to remain is mandatory where … a person is suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity”.
Can the Minister say how many people have been refused leave to enter and leave to remain in this country, with anonymity, on the grounds that they had committed gross human rights abuses or violations under the terms of the current Immigration Rules, which refer specifically to war crimes or crimes against humanity?
The suspicion is that this power under the Immigration Rules, with its anonymity for those who could be refused entry, which the Government—as I understand it—claim is effective, is not being used to any purpose, even though a 2016 report by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee referred to £100 billion being laundered through the UK’s banks each year. That indicates that the present Immigration Rules are not fit for purpose—or not as much as they might be—on the issue of denying entry or removing perpetrators of gross human rights abuses and naming such abusers, and that the need for specific statutory provision against human rights abusers in the form provided for in the Bill is both overdue and clear cut.
We need to show in very specific terms, through a clear, primary statutory provision, that those who commit such abuses and violations of human rights will not enjoy the freedom to enter and remain in this country, including for the purpose of spending their stolen money from criminal activities with which such abuses and violations, as in the Magnitsky case, are so often associated.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, for bringing forward this debate. Many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, mentioned that they had read the book Red Notice, as have I. The word “compelling” comes to mind—and if it was fiction, it would certainly be a bestseller. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, was not present for much of the passage of the Criminal Finances Act, but she may be interested to read the section in Part 1 to which she referred today, as there was some compelling debate at that juncture. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced very recently the setting up of the National Economic Crime Centre for the UK, which brings together all the agencies to tackle serious fraud and economic crime.
The Bill seeks to provide for the refusal and curtailment of leave where a person is known to be, or to have been, involved in gross human rights abuses. The Government are committed to improving human rights across the world by holding states accountable for their human rights records. We take a strong stance against individuals who are known to have committed gross abuses and violations, and I commend the wish of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, to act firmly to protect our borders from such individuals.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, talked about naming individuals, and this touches on a point made by my noble friends Lord Trimble and Lady Warsi. There are compelling reasons for naming and shaming individuals but the Government have always stated that they will not do that. Doing so would send a message to those not named that, by their omission, they are of less concern than those who are named, although that might not be the case. Naming individuals might also alert those named and not named as to the level of information that the Government hold on them.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the number of people refused leave to enter or leave to remain. He will understand that I cannot give that number, but it has always been the Government’s position that for further legislation to be warranted in this area there would need to be a real demonstration that the existing powers were insufficient. I hope I can demonstrate that the provisions proposed in the Bill remain unnecessary.
The Government have a range of measures that provide for robust action to be taken against individuals known to be involved in human rights abuses. Obviously I cannot comment on individual cases, some of which are subject to exclusion orders, but I would like to take noble Lords through the policies and procedures that we have in place to prevent those involved in gross abuses from coming to the UK or securing immigration status here.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed out, the Home Secretary has the power to exclude a foreign national if she considers that their presence in the UK will not be conducive to the public good or if their exclusion is justified on grounds of public policy or public security. A person may be excluded for a range of reasons, including national security, criminality, involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity, corruption and unacceptable behaviour. There is no time limit on exclusion, and a person who is excluded remains so until the Home Secretary agrees to lift that exclusion. Having been excluded by the Home Secretary, anyone who applies for entry clearance or leave to enter must be refused so long as the exclusion remains in force. Such a power is serious and no decision is taken lightly. All decisions have to be based on sound evidence and must be proportionate, reasonable and consistent.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, talked about the test threshold. He is of course correct in his reference to the test in the Immigration Rules. Decisions to exclude must be taken only on the basis of sound evidence. The UK operates a watch list, which is used to flag individuals of concern, and those known to be involved in human rights abuses would be included on that list.
The noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, talked about excluding human rights abusers. Contrary to her concerns, those involved in this sort of shocking behaviour can already be excluded. However, we can make an express amendment to the current guidance to make it absolutely clear that involvement in gross human rights abuses will be grounds for exclusion. That may be helpful.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about officers’ powers as opposed to the democratic process, although I think that she meant “in conjunction with” the democratic process. Border Force officers’ powers derive from the Immigration Act 1971, particularly those in Schedule 2 relating to refusal of entry to those who do not qualify for entry to the UK.
Yes, of course, there is the democratic process, but I was also concerned that it would be very unusual for it not to be within the context of the Executive’s decision and the Secretary of State’s consideration of the matter. It is not something to be done lightly at Dover.
I do not think I was making light of the noble Baroness’s point. I hope she did not think that.
It is precisely because each decision to make an exclusion order is based on sound evidence and the facts of each individual case that it would not be proportionate or reasonable to exclude every national of a particular country. The vast majority of them will be law-abiding citizens engaged in activity which meets the threshold for exclusion. The current sanctions regime imposed by the UN Security Council and the Council of the European Union adds an additional layer of protection preventing non-EEA nationals of concern from travelling to the UK. International travel bans apply to individuals associated with regimes or groups whose behaviour is considered unacceptable by the international community. Where an EEA national or their family member is subject to a UN or EU travel ban, we will normally refuse admission to the UK on the grounds of public policy or public security.
The immigration rules provide for the refusal of entry clearance, the refusal of leave to enter or to remain and the curtailment of leave to a non-EEA national where that person has a criminal conviction, or on the basis of their conduct, character or associations, including where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence of their involvement in human rights abuses. In the case of EEA nationals we can refuse admission to the UK where public policy or public security is engaged. The person must be shown to be a genuine present and sufficiently serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of our society.
Except in exceptional circumstances, a foreign national subject to immigration control who has been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a period of imprisonment faces a mandatory refusal of visa or leave to enter the UK for a specified period. The length of the prison sentence will determine the duration of the ban from the UK. For those persons given a prison sentence of four years or more, an indefinite ban will apply; where a person has received a sentence of between 12 months and four years, there is a 10-year ban; and for those persons with a sentence of less than 12 months, there is a five-year ban. This applies to those convicted in the UK or overseas.
The Government also recognise the importance of distinguishing between those who are entitled to come to the UK and stay here and those who are not. We have a number of measures to assist with this. For those who need a visa to come to the UK, the application process requires the applicant to declare any criminality or immigration offence and to provide their facial image and fingerprints as biometrics. Entry clearance officers are required to check a range of databases, including the biometric, Home Office and police databases. This allows us to check the details of any UK criminal record and identify important information about the applicant’s immigration history, including any travel ban or exclusion order. At the border we undertake similar checks against police, security and Immigration Watch lists, as I have already said, to identify people of concern. Border Force officers can and do refuse entry if they believe that a foreign national poses a risk.
The immigration rules include provision for leave to remain to be curtailed and for indefinite leave to remain to be revoked if we become aware that a person with leave, including refugee status, has been involved in gross human rights abuses. Where a person cannot be removed from the UK because it would breach their human rights, we will consider granting short periods of restricted leave.
I am grateful for the opportunity to set out the wide range of government powers to deal with those committing gross human rights abuses. The measures proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, are not necessary to protect our borders from undesirable individuals. The existing legislative framework prevents those involved in gross human rights abuses entering the UK and, indeed, goes further by ensuring that we can consider an applicant’s complete background and criminal history when deciding whether or not to grant entry.
I thank the noble Baroness for bringing forward this debate today.
I thank everyone who has participated in the debate in support of this Bill. Until the last speaker, we were united in saying that there is a need for it. This is not a question of simply protecting our borders from unpleasant persons; it is about sending a message to the world that there is no impunity for those who commit crimes of inhumanity. It is about making a statement to the world about our views with regard to human rights and those who violate them. I greatly regret that the Government do not see the potency of having such a Bill on the statute book.
I thank all those who have supported the purpose of this Bill. I feel privileged to be in this House, in particular because I have friends all around the Chamber. They sit on all the Benches and just now I can see them smiling at me, and I am lucky to have them. My friendships with people in this House are sometimes peppered with political differences on certain subjects, but we still enjoy great friendship. I want to make it known to the world that noble Lords are not speaking today because of that friendship but because one of the things we share is our concern for the rule of law and for justice. That is what has brought us all together today in support of the Bill. It is to say that justice matters and that it is important that we in the United Kingdom take a stance on human rights abuses around the world—and that, when we know they have happened, we should refuse entry to those who have been party to such egregious crimes. It is shaming on the Government that they are not prepared to take steps on this.
Of course I anticipated that it would be said that powers are already available to the Home Secretary, but we know that they are not being used. The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, referred to the failures on that front. It is not enough to talk about the fact that we are now introducing legislation to deal with those who commit fraud and so on because here we are talking about people who are slaughtering others and are prepared to kill in order to maintain their power. They are people who are prepared to rape and to sanction rape by others. That is what is so disgraceful about the failure of the Government to make clear to the world what the message is by having legislation of this kind.
I was very interested to hear about the kleptocracy tour described by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner. Perhaps the noble Baroness will have to organise a bus to take people from this House around London in order to point out how dark money is infecting our city and our nation. People are coming here because they know that they can enjoy impunity for the crimes they have committed. I say to the Government that we should be ashamed; I say, “Poor show, Government, that you are not prepared to take this step”.
As for the business of publishing names, the argument for doing so is that those who have not been named would be put on alert. They would think immediately, “Am I going to be on that list tomorrow—or in a month’s time?”. It is unpersuasive to say that that is a reason for not publishing. We are providing cover for people with whom unfortunately we do business for reasons that are still not good enough. They have disgraceful pasts that they are covering up.
I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, who is a truly great lawyer, for his intervention. He raised the important issue of the standard of proof. What I referred to in my speech was that there is an independent United Nations panel that looks at those who have committed crimes and applies careful standards. Drawing up a list of those the panel considers have committed human rights breaches is not done merely on suspicion. We can also look to the International Criminal Court, which again draws up lists as part of its investigations. There are ways of doing this, but I accept that if, as I hope, we take the Bill further, we can look at ways to perfect this through amendments tabled in Committee.
I want to make it very clear to the Government that there is no suggestion of this being used against all citizens of a country because it falsely claims to be a democracy. That is not the purpose of the Bill. The purpose is to deal with the leadership in these places—people who sanction this kind of egregious crime. It in no way deals with people who are victims because they happen to live in a country where the leadership behaves in such terrible ways.
Mention was made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, of the possibility of something being done in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill. I would urge that on the Government; it may be that they can find some part of that Bill that could be expanded to cover this—although I suspect that there will be unwillingness to do so. I have absolutely no doubt that this Bill can be perfected in Committee, but the purpose today is to say that there should be a Bill—one that makes it very clear to the world that we support the Magnitsky Acts that have come into being in the United States and Canada—not countries that casually introduce such legislation. The world needs to take steps to prevent such impunity.
Finally, I want to reiterate what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Trimble: we have seen that this is working. It has been a long time in coming. Over the years, we have talked about the ways in which international law can be an expression of good will but is often unenforceable; it is often impossible to implement our good intentions. This Bill is a way of doing that and a way of sending a message around the world: “You cannot come here. You will not be able to come here. You will not be able to go to the United States or Canada or Latvia or other nations that have signed up to this”. I think that it will spread. We want to be in there at the beginning, surely.
I thank noble Lords for supporting me and I beg to move.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.