Kleptocrats and other corrupt leaders are responsible for causing forced displacement around the world. One of the mechanisms used to hold them responsible are sanctions, including freezing the assets of kleptocrats, as has been done to Russian oligarchs in response to the illegal invasion of Ukraine.
The World Refugee & Migration Council proposed in its report A Call to Action: Transforming the Global Refugee System that these seized assets should be seized and repurposed to assist those forcibly displaced by perpetrators who so often act with impunity, often enriching themselves in the process.
This will increase the amounts available to support the forcibly displaced while enhancing accountability by eliminating the impunity of corrupt leaders.
As a direct result of the Council’s proposal, Canada has now implemented the recommendation to not only freeze, but seize and repurpose assets of persons who are responsible for “gross and systematic human rights violations…in a foreign state or acts of significant corruption.” to assist forcibly displaced persons in amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act. The Act’s amendments closely resemble the Frozen Assets Repurposing Act first tabled by Independent Canadian Senator and Council member Ratna Omidvar in the Senate.
The Council continues to promote development of similar legislation around the world and has discussed proposals with officials and legislators in other countries, notably the Federal Republic of Germany and the United Kingdom.
The WRMC calls on governments of countries in which regimes have deposited financial assets to develop appropriate legal measures to confiscate and repurpose such assets for the benefit of the people in the country of origin, including those who have been forced to flee their communities because of the actions by the regime in question.From A Call to Action
Another mechanism the Council is championing to support repurposing assets is the development of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC) — an initiative supported by 7/10 Canadians. The IACC would strengthen and enforce international anti-corruption laws against corrupt leaders and have the authority to recover, repatriate and repurpose stolen assets to assist those from whom they were stolen.
The Council successfully persuaded both major political parties in Canada to include the proposal in their election platforms, as well as in the December 2021 Mandate Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In addition to the Canadian government, the WRMC, along with partner Integrity Initiatives International, has discussed this proposal with delegations from the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and the Netherlands.
Below you will find in-depth information from on the repurposing of frozen and seized assets to assist the forcibly displaced including testimony from Council members to the Canadian Senate, the legal precedents for seizing and repurposing assets, as well as information about the Council’s Canadian Task Force Against Global Corruption.
The bad governance that so often causes forced displacement is almost always associated with grand corruption, the abuse of power by high-level government officials who exploit their positions for personal gain at the expense of society and in violation of human rights.
This research paper assesses the four main legal options in dealing with frozen Russian assets: continued freezing, confiscation, private claims, and enforcement of a foreign judgment or international award.
WRMC Canadian Task Force Against Global Corruption member Prof. Robert Currie outlines the international legal aspects of Canada’s new legislation to seize and repurpose frozen foreign assets.
The WRMC welcomes the federal government’s decision to implement one of the key recommendations made by the Council in its 2019 report A Call to Action.
As Russian oligarchs’ assets are seized worldwide in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Canada has a clear opportunity to significantly ramp up global anti-corruption efforts with its international partners and allies.
Independent Canadian Senator and Council member Ratna Omidvar has tabled the Frozen Assets Repurposing Act in the Senate. If passed, it would authorize Canadian courts to take the frozen assets of foreign officials whose mis-rule creates forced displacement and other humanitarian needs.
WRMC President Fen Hampson testified before the Senate of Canada’s Standing Senate Committee, delivering seven propositions as to why the Frozen Assets Repurposing Act is good public policy
Read our research paper Repurposing Frozen Assets to Assist the Forcibly Displaced
Legal analysis of innovative options for repurposing frozen assets of kleptocrats to assist the forcibly displaced and the countries hosting them.
WRMC Special Advisor Allan Rock discusses the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court, along with its purpose, benefits, jurisdiction, and administration.
Updated: September 2022