High Court Upholds Sanctions Regime in Anzhelika Khan Case: Key Issues on Discretion, Association, and Human Rights

Citation: [2024] EWHC 361 (Admin)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of Anzhelika Khan v The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs [2024] EWHC 361 (Admin), the High Court of Justice considered an application for judicial review challenging the lawfulness of sanctions imposed under the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. The case primarily delves into issues surrounding discretion in the application of sanctions, the concept of association under sanctions law, the impact on rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and the proportionality of the sanctions regime.

Key Facts

Anzhelika Khan, a Russian-born British citizen, challenged her designation under UK sanctions regulations closely connected with her husband, German Khan, who has significant business interests in Russia and is alleged to have associations with the Russian government. Ms. Khan was sanctioned due to substantial gifts she received from her husband, constituting her association with an “involved person” under the 2019 Regulations. Her legal team sought to undo her designation, citing failure in procedural considerations by the Secretary of State, infringement on her human rights under ECHR, and questioning the compatibility of the Regulations with ECHR.

The court applied several legal principles, with the principal focus on:

  1. The Padfield Principle: This principle maintains that discretion under a statute must be exercised in line with the policy and objectives of the enabling statute.

  2. Proportionality Under the ECHR: Proportionality in sanctions denotes assessing alignment with human rights, specifically Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Protocol 1 Article 1 (peaceful enjoyment of possessions). The proportionality test consists of whether the sanctions have a legitimate aim, a rational connection to the aim, are no more intrusive than necessary, and strike a fair balance between individual rights and community interests.

  3. Prescribed by Law: For a measure to be prescribed by law, it must be accessible, foreseeable, and protect against arbitrary action.

  4. SAMLA and the 2019 Regulations: The court scrutinized whether the sanctions regime under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (SAMLA) and its application through the 2019 Regulations satisfied the principles above, especially given the amended discretion provisions in the 2022 Act.

The court referenced related case law, such as Shvidler v Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, to illuminate the boundaries of administrative discretion and the benchmarks for proportionality in comparable situations.

Outcomes

The High Court dismissed all grounds of Ms. Khan’s challenge, finding that:

  1. The Secretary of State adequately considered whether Khan’s individual designation furthered the statutory purpose.

  2. The broadness of discretion under the 2019 Regulations was appropriately limited by legal safeguards, rendering the designation foreseeable and adequately protected against arbitrariness.

  3. Regulation 6(2)(d) regarding association was not ruled incompatible with the ECHR, as it could be operated in a manner compatible with Convention rights.

  4. The designation met the proportionality test, as there was a rational connection between the designation and its aim, no less intrusive measure effectively achieves the aim, and a fair balance was struck between individual rights and community interests.

Conclusion

In Anzhelika Khan v The Secretary of State, the High Court upheld the lawfulness of sanctions applied to an individual associated with an “involved person” under sanction regulations. Significantly, the judgment reinforces the discretion of the Secretary of State in designating individuals under the sanctions framework while ensuring that such discretions don’t infringe ECHR protections. The court’s meticulous application of legal principles to the specifics of the case reinforces the robustness of the UK’s sanctions regime in the face of challenges predicated on human rights grounds. The decision underscores the balance the UK legal system seeks to maintain between national and international security interests and individual human rights.

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