European Union to Set Up Sanctions Regime Against Human Rights Offenders
The European Union (EU) has agreed to start working on legislation that will allow the EU to sanction individuals accused of human rights abuses worldwide, mirroring the Magnitsky Act in the United States, which has already been in place since 2012. With such a sanctions regime, the EU is able to hold individuals accountable over human rights abuses without having to target a specific country. Accordingly, the EU will be better able to act upon its commitment to appropriately defend human rights globally.
Below is an article published by Politico:
The European Union will set up a Magnitsky-style targeted sanctions regime to penalize human rights offenders, the bloc's foreign ministers agreed on Monday [9 December 2019].
New EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell described human rights as a "clear priority for Europeans ... and my mandate" at a press conference following the foreign ministers' meeting.
He said that "under the request of several member states we have agreed to launch the preparatory work for a global sanctions regime to address serious human rights violations which will be the European Union equivalent of the so-called Magnitsky Act of the United States."
The U.S Magnitsky Act was signed by then-President Barack Obama in December 2012 with the aim of targeting the Russian officials deemed responsible for the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Since then, the law has been used to sanction individuals accused of human rights abuses worldwide.
"There was a strong consensus ... to launch the preparatory work, and the European External Action Service [the EU's diplomatic body] will prepare the documentation for this in order to prepare the equivalent of this act," Borrell said, adding that "this will be a tangible step reaffirming the European Union's global lead on human rights."
He also noted that the announcement comes just ahead of Human Rights Day on December 10 . Drawing up the legislation will take more time, however — EU officials say the preparatory work will take months.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok, who pushed for the bloc to adopt such a law, tweeted: "It’s a very strong signal that today the EU unanimously decided to legislate a worldwide EU human rights sanction regime."
The proposed legislation as yet bears no specific name. EU diplomats are reluctant to call it the "EU Magnitsky Act" over concerns that the name could suggest an intention to target only Russian officials (though the U.S. law has been applied to actors worldwide).
When the European Parliament called for the bloc to implement such a sanctions regime earlier this year, it said it "should symbolically carry the name of Sergei Magnitsky."
According to a senior diplomat, the proposed regime will allow the EU to specifically target individuals "without sending the message that you don't want to deal with that country" as these sanctions would emphasize individual responsibility rather than nationality — though some may still view them as targeting a certain country.
For another diplomat, "the point is that there are crimes that can't be attributed to a country. We should be able to hold the individual perpetrators accountable in that case."
According to a third diplomat, the sanctions regime will serve to show that "we have muscles." He added that the system could be "both symbolic and effective," depending on how member states use it.
A possible target of the new tool, some diplomats say, could be Iranian officials.
The EU is holding onto its 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran even after the U.S pulled out, but with Amnesty International saying that "at least 208" protesters have been killed during demonstrations in Iran, Brussels is presented with a foreign policy dilemma — caught between upholding human rights standards and trying to maintain solid ties with Tehran.
At the press conference Monday [9 December 2019], Borrell said that the EU's line on the nuclear deal "doesn't prevent us from putting sanctions if this is the case from the point of view of human rights abuses, it has nothing to do with the nuclear deal."
However, he added, "this issue has not been taken into consideration in the Council today."
Picture courtesy of The Epoch Times