UK criticises China, penalises Russians, Iranians over rights

FILE PHOTO: British Foreign Secretary Cleverly interview with Reuters in London

By Andrew MacAskill and William James

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain said the human rights situation in China worsened last year and announced sanctions on Friday against 30 people worldwide, including officials from Russia, Iran and Myanmar who it deems responsible for human rights abuses or corruption.

France had on Thursday announced plans for new European Union sanctions against Iran over human rights abuses in its security crackdown on popular unrest there as well as its supply of drones to Russia before Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The British government said its sanctions were coordinated with international partners to mark International Anti-Corruption Day and Global Human Rights Day. They encompassed individuals involved in activities including the torture of prisoners and the mobilisation of troops to rape civilians.

"Today our sanctions go further to expose those behind the heinous violations of our most fundamental rights," foreign minister James Cleverly said in a statement.

Those targeted include Russian Colonel Ramil Rakhmatulovich Ibatullin for his role as the commander of the 90th Tank Division, which has been involved in fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine.

The government said there had been multiple allegations made against serving members of the 90th Tank Division, including the conviction in Ukraine of a senior lieutenant on sexual abuse charges during the conflict.

Russia, which has said it is conducting a "special military operation" in Ukraine to eliminate threats to its security, has denied committing war crimes or targeting civilians.

Britain also imposed sanctions on 10 Iranian officials connected to Iran's prison systems, including six linked to the Revolutionary Courts responsible for prosecuting protesters with sentences including the death penalty.

Nationwide protests following the death in police custody of Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini have posed one of the biggest challenges to the Islamic Republic since its establishment in 1979.

Britain also slapped sanctions on figures involved in Myanmar's military, who it said were involved in committing massacres, torture and rape.

Russia, Myanmar, and Iran have previously dismissed accusations of atrocities as foreign interference based on falsehoods.

Their embassies in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Separately, Britain said in its annual review of global human rights and democracy that the human rights situation in China deteriorated last year with Uyghur Muslims facing what the foreign minister called "horrific persecution".

The government in China continued to pursue policies including the extra-judicial detention of Uyghur Muslims in political re-education camps in the Xinjiang region's expanding prison network, it said.

China is using advanced technologies, including mass surveillance and "predictive policing" algorithms, in ways which violated human rights in the region, the report said. Beijing vigorously denies any abuses.

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in London said the claims by the British government were "baseless" and China's human rights were at their "historical best".

"We once again urge the UK side to correct the practice of applying double standards on human rights", the spokesperson said, adding the British government should "stop interfering in China's internal affairs".

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and William James; Editing by Kylie MacLellan, Philippa Fletcher and John Stonestreet)