The new “autonomous” global sanctions regime, which was officially unveiled by Raab in the House of Commons on Monday, will initially target individuals or organizations with asset freezes and visa bans, and eventually expand to states and governments.
"Today I will introduce a sanctions regime that will target people who have committed the gravest human rights violations. Global Britain will be an even stronger force for good in the world, in the years ahead," Britain’s foreign minister issued a stark warning to human rights violators around the world on Twitter, seemingly without a hint of irony.
Pre-Brexit, the UK was obliged to follow the UN and EU sanctions regimes. Raab’s apparent notion of London suddenly breaking free from the shackles of Brussels and the UN to become some kind of new moral leader in the world has been met mostly with mockery.
Raab’s championing of “Global Britain” drew comments about how the country is now more of a “little Britain” and “getting smaller,” having decided to leave the EU.
There were also creative edits of Raab’s tweet, suggesting more accurately that Britain would be targeting only the violators “to whom we don't sell arms” and would be a force for greater hypocrisy instead.
Many of the responses pointed out that Britain itself has been accused of human rights violations. “Blimey, this could take out the entire Tory cabinet,” one Twitter user joked, while another wondered if it’s possible for the country to “sanctions itself.”
UN human rights experts have raised red flags about a number of UK policies and proposals in recent years. In January 2016, the draft of the Investigatory Powers bill was said to present a threat to “rights to freedom of expression and association.”
In 2015, the UK government’s decision to impose an under-occupancy charge, or “bedroom tax,” was condemned by UN Special Rapporteur for Housing Raquel Rolnik as breaching the human rights of people with disabilities, by making their housing unaffordable.
Most recently, UN rapporteur Nils Melzer described the British treatment of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, currently locked up in London’s Belmarsh Prison, as amounting to “torture.”
There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.