Last week, the Law Society submitted on a draft of the Russia Sanctions Bill, which was subsequently introduced and passed under urgency. Prepared with the assistance of the Public and Administrative Law Committee, the submission made various recommendations to improve the Bill and to ensure sanctions are only imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A key recommendation was to refine the Bill and provide a clearer threshold for authorising sanctions so the legislation would not be used for circumstances beyond the current crisis in Ukraine. The Law Society suggested amending the Bill to:
- ensure sanctions cannot be authorised in response to threats to countries other than Ukraine; and
- clarify that sanctions can be imposed on Russian individuals only where they might reasonably have an impact or influence on the actions of Russia.
These recommendations are not directly reflected in the enacted version of the Bill. However, the need for a clearer threshold for authorising sanctions has been recognised. The Russia Sanctions Act 2022 now includes a new clause which provides that sanctions are appropriate where they are designed to exert pressure on Russia, or they complement or reinforce sanctions by other countries.
The submission also considered clause 13 of the Bill, which allows individuals to apply to the Minister to amend or revoke a sanction. The Bill initially provided that the Minister does not have to consider repeat applications that are made within 12 months.
The Law Society’s submission recognised that these sanctions could have a significant impact on a person, their assets and their livelihood. The submission therefore recommended amending the Bill to provide that the Minister need not consider repeat applications that are made within 6 months (rather 12 months). This recommendation is now reflected in section 13(5) the Act.
The Law Society’s substantial recommendations are not reflected in the enacted version of the Bill. This includes key recommendations to:
- amend the Bill to provide for a mechanism for independent review of sanctions decisions, particularly where they have a direct impact on individuals, and
- clarify the powers of the High Court to enforce an undertaking that is given by a person in connection with their compliance with a sanction.
It is crucial to ensure transparency around the consultation process and the feedback received on the Bill, particularly in light of the truncated process under which the Bill was scrutinised by the House. The Law Society therefore invites the Minister to consider providing for such a mechanism when the Act is reviewed in two years.
The Russia Sanctions Act 2022 came into force on 12 March 2022.