#EndSARS: As British Parliament hears petition, UK govt says it won’t speculate on sanctions

The British Parliament at the Westminster Hall held a debate on ‘e-petition 554150, relating to Nigeria and the sanctions regime’ on Monday.

The government of the United Kingdom has however responded saying that it will not speculate on future sanctions designations.

Theresa Anne Villiers, a British Conservative Party politician, representing Chipping Barnet constituency, led the debate.

The petition suggested that the UK Government “should consider using the sanctions regime to impose sanctions on members of the Nigerian Government and police force involved in any human rights abuse.”

The petition was prompted by the actions of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the subseqent #EndSARS protests. 

Speaking on the #EndSARS protests, the UK Government said it “is deeply concerned by violence during recent protests in Nigeria, which tragically claimed lives. Our thoughts are with the families of all those affected.

“The Foreign Secretary issued a statement on 21 October calling for an end to the violence and for the Nigerian Government to urgently investigate reports of brutality by its security forces and hold those responsible to account. 

“The Minister for Africa tweeted on 16 October, noting the Nigerian people’s democratic and peaceful calls for reforms, and again on 21 October, encouraging the Nigerian authorities to restore peace and address concerns over brutality towards civilians. 

“He reiterated these messages when he spoke to Foreign Minister Onyeama on 23 October.

“The British High Commissioner in Abuja has also raised the protests with representatives of the Nigerian Government and will continue to do so.”

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The UK government said it welcomed “President Buhari’s decision to disband the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and the establishment of judicial panels of inquiry to investigate alleged incidents of brutality by the security services. They must investigate all incidents, including in Lagos, fully. The Minister for Africa tweeted on 29 October stressing the importance of the police and military’s cooperation with the panels. He raised this, and the need for the panels to urgently start investigations, when he spoke to the Governor of Lagos on 11 November.

“The UK Government will continue to work with the Nigerian Government and international and civil society partners to support justice, accountability and a more responsive policing model in Nigeria. We will continue to push for the Nigerian security services to uphold human rights and the rule of law, investigate all incidents of brutality, illegal detentions and use of excessive force, and hold those responsible to account.”

On the issue of sanctions, the UK Government responded saying that, “On 6 July, the Government established the Global Human Rights sanctions regime by laying regulations in Parliament under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. In a statement to Parliament, the Foreign Secretary set out in full the scope of the UK’s new Global Human Rights sanctions regime. He announced the first tranche of designations, as well as the Government’s approach to future designations.

“This sanctions regime will give the UK a powerful new tool to hold to account those involved in serious human rights violations or abuses. The sanctions regime is not intended to target individual countries. It will allow for sanctions to be imposed on individuals and entities involved in serious human rights violations or abuses around the world.

“We will continue to consider potential designations under the Global Human Rights sanctions regime. It is longstanding practice not to speculate on future sanctions designations as to do so could reduce the impact of the designations.

“The UK Government will keep all evidence and potential listings under close review.”

The UK government, however, emphasised that “We were concerned by violence during recent protests and await the outcome of Nigerian investigations into reports of police brutality. We do not publicly speculate on future sanctions designations.”


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