The implementation of United Nations sanctions

This database contains the original national contributions bringing together information on The implementation of United Nations sanctions

Information on the contribution

Member State
United Kingdom
Created on
Contribution of 17/06/2022
Permanent link to the contribution Sanctions/United Kingdom/2022/533
Database of the CAHDI "The implementation of United Nations sanctions" - contribution of United Kingdom - 17/06/2022

1. Which are the procedures for the incorporation of Security Council Resolutions imposing sanctions into the internal legal order of your State? Are they incorporated through legislation, regulations or in any other way? Has the implementation given rise to any constitutional or other legal problems at national level? Is there any relevant case-law?

The UK implements (as distinct from “incorporates”) all sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Section 1 of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (‘SAMLA’) grants the appropriate UK minister the power to make sanctions regulations for the purposes of compliance with a UN obligation.

Travel bans
The UK implements UN travel bans pursuant to Section 8B of the Immigration Act 1971 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999). The Immigration Act 1971 provides for the exclusion from the UK of persons subject to UN travel bans designated under regulations under section 1 of SAMLA. Unless an exemption applies, an excluded person must be refused leave to enter or remain in the UK, or have his or her existing leave cancelled. Pending the domestic implementation of new UN Security Council Resolutions, the UK can use administrative provisions under its Immigration Rules to prevent targeted persons transiting or travelling to the UK. The Home Secretary, an entry clearance officer or an immigration officer may exclude the individual where their presence in the UK would not be conducive to the public good.

Arms embargoes
UN arms embargoes are implemented pursuant to sanctions regulations made under section 1 of SAMLA. Additionally, administrative decision-making enforces such measures, as all export licence applications for licensable equipment are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the UK’s Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, Criterion 1 of which provides that export licences will not be issued if approval would be inconsistent with the UK’s international obligations. Trafficking and brokering of arms and related material is controlled by secondary legislation under the Export Control Act 2002.

Financial sanctions
UN asset freezes are implemented pursuant to SAMLA, which grants the appropriate UK minister the power to make sanctions regulations for the purposes of compliance with a UN obligation.

Other measures
Other types of measures under sanctions regulations, for purposes of implementing UN obligations, may be made under sections 3-8 of SAMLA.

Crown Dependencies

The “Crown Dependencies” comprise:
· The Bailiwick of Guernsey (including Alderney, Sark and Herm)
· The Isle of Man and
· The Bailiwick of Jersey
The Islands are not part of the United Kingdom. The Islands have their own legislative
assemblies, administrative, fiscal and legal systems and their own courts of law.

The provisions of Part 1 of SAMLA and regulations made under it can be extended to the Crown Dependencies by Order in Council. The Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey implement the same measures via their own local legislation.

The Isle of Man have legislation enabling them to make “Application” regulations in Manx law applying UK EU Exit sanctions regulations, including those implementing UN obligations e.g. on Afghanistan sanctions. So too can the Isle of Man amend that legislation, providing that it is still classed as EU Exit legislation. However, the Isle of Man cannot make legislation establishing regimes unconnected to exit from the EU. Hence a new UN sanctions regime would have to be implemented via a UK Order in Council.

Overseas Territories

The British Overseas Territories are:
· Anguilla
· Bermuda
· British Antarctic Territory
· British Indian Ocean Territory
· British Virgin Islands
· Cayman Islands
· Falkland Islands
· Gibraltar
· Montserrat
· Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
· St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
· South Georgia and Sandwich Islands
· Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
· Turks and Caicos Islands

The provisions of Part 1 of SAMLA and regulations made under it can be extended to the British Overseas Territories by Order in Council. Sanctions Orders extend to the British Overseas Territories except for Bermuda and Gibraltar who implement the same measures or the Sanctions Order via their own local legislation.

Penalties for breach of sanctions
Offences relating to the principal prohibitions under UK financial sanctions carry a maximum of 7 years’ imprisonment on indictment (applying to all of the UK) and, on summary conviction, a maximum of 12 months’ imprisonment in England and Wales (or, in relation to offences committed before section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 comes into force, 6 months), 12 months in Scotland, and 6 months in Northern Ireland. For exact penalties, particularly those relating to different parts of the UK, please consult the relevant legislation.

HMT’s Office of Financial Sanctions has the power to impose monetary penalties for breaches of financial sanctions under powers in the Policing and Crime Act 2017. The maximum value of a monetary penalty may range from 50% of the total breach up to £1m – whichever is the greater value.

As to case law, see the response to question 6.

2. Does the choice depend on the content and the legal nature of the Security Council Resolution?

The UK implements all legally binding Security Council resolutions.

3. When sanctions are imposed for a fixed period of time which is not renewed, are they tacitly repealed within your domestic legal order or is any normative action required?

Regulations imposed under section 1 of SAMLA for the purposes of compliance with a UN obligation normally remain in force and require further action to be revoked, if the Security Council does not renew the UN sanctions that they implement.

4. When a Security Council Resolution imposing an export embargo provides for exceptions while not establishing a committee to authorise such exceptions, does the incorporating act appoint a national authority, which is competent to authorise export?

The Government applies a rigorous export licensing regime for equipment subject to export control restrictions. The Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) administers the UK’s system of export controls and licensing for military and dual-use items. ECJU is part of the Department for International Trade, but includes officials from the Ministry of Defence and from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The licensing authority will comply with decisions of the UN Security Council when considering whether or not to issue an export licence. Breaching export controls is a criminal offence punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

5. Are Sanctions Committee decisions specifying Security Council sanctions or setting conditions for their activation incorporated into domestic law?

Yes (though again, noting that such decisions are implemented, not incorporated). Per section 1(1) of SAMLA: “An appropriate Minister may make sanctions regulations where that Minister considers that it is appropriate to make the regulations: (a) for the purposes of compliance with a UN obligation […]”. Sanctions Committee decisions, for example designating persons as subject to UN sanctions, are implemented through such regulations.

6. Have there been cases where the act incorporating sanctions in the domestic legal order was challenged in court for being in violation of human rights? For example, have national courts assumed jurisdiction in cases where sanctions are challenged by individuals affected by sanctions: a. if implemented through EU regulations? b. if implemented directly at national level?

Yes. The case law on this issue, and its application to the legislative framework in place since SAMLA came into force, was summarised by the High Court in R (Hany Youssef) v Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs [2021] EWHC 3188 (Admin).

7. Are there decisions of national courts or state practice concerning the relationship between sanctions towards individuals and the human rights of these individuals?

Yes. Key recent cases include: the case mentioned in question 6 above; Bank Mellat v HM Treasury [2019] EWCA 449 (human rights damages claim), and the line of Bank Mellat cases generally. Furthermore, the House of Lords case of SSHD v AF (No.3) [2010] 2 AC 269 remains a key case on the standard of disclosure in sanctions designations cases, in relation to the right to a fair trial.