Navalny attack finally prompts EU Magnitsky sanctions?


International perpetrators of genocide and torture, but not corruption, are to face new Magnitsky sanctions from the European Union, a leaked document shows. Those guilty of crimes against humanity, slavery, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests will also face EU asset-freezes and visa-bans, the EU Observer’s Andrew Rettman writes.

Universal Human Rights Group

The poisoning of opposition activist Alexei Navalny should shock the EU into the adoption of legislation similar to the Magnitsky Act in the United States. First proposed by a Dutch foreign minister in 2018, the law has been going through “preparatory work” in the European Union’s 27 members since then, the Post adds.

An EU spokesperson said the 27-nation bloc has already started talks about how to respond to the attack on Navalny and that Russia’s track-record of investigating past killings of prominent Kremlin critics like Anna Politkovskaya, Sergei Magnitsky or Boris Nemtsov was poor, Reuters adds.

“We’ll take some time and then we are headed for sanctions most likely,” a senior EU diplomat told Reuters.

Germany’s minister for Europe told reporters that Berlin is open to “all sanctions options” and that Navalny’s poisoning, as a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), was of “an international, rather than bilateral, nature,” CSIS adds.

Credit ESI

Human rights violators should be scared. More and more democratic countries are holding them individually accountable for their crimes and are issuing ‘Magnitsky sanctions’ to target them where it hurts most: their pockets and their freedom to travel, says Franklin De Vrieze, Senior Governance Advisor at the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

The UK is set to expand the UK Magnitsky legislation to include corruption offences. Kleptocrats and corrupt oligarchs will face visa bans and asset freezes under government plans to expand the new law, he writes for the Global Policy Journal: 

Some argue there is a compelling case for broadening the list of those being sanctioned to include the names of Chinese Communist Party officials involved in the repression in Hong KongTibet and Xinjiang. …..With regards to the massive human rights abuses in Belarus following the recent fraudulent presidential elections, the EU has decided to impose visa sanctions and asset freezes on Belarus officials and a list of names is being prepared. 

As British barrister Amal Clooney put it in her authoritative report on targeted sanctions, Canada’s Magnitsky Law is in many respects “narrower than its UK and US counterparts,” Irwin Cotler and Brandon Silver (right) of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights observe, making The Case for a New and Improved Magnitsky Law.

The legislation is limited to individuals — therefore excluding the listing of legal entities, and providing exculpatory immunity to corporations directly involved in violations — and does not allow for the listing of secondary participants in human rights abuses. These omissions should be revisited and revised, lest Canada indulge a culture of impunity for such violations, they write for Policy:

Canada should establish an international contact group for the coordination of Magnitsky sanctions. Beyond ensuring more effective implementation across major economies, Canada should seek to individually and collectively intervene to proactively support the adoption of global Magnitsky legislation in liberal democracies, providing endorsement of the process, and lending experience and expertise in the development of its substance.

While several states have adopted Magnitsky Laws, only the US, UK, and Kosovo provisions are global in scope/ or implementation, they observe, enhancing the importance of the re-purposing of assets and the formation of an international contact group.

Marc Limon, head of the Universal Human Rights Group, concurs.

“It is vital, at this early formative stage of the global Magnitsky ‘wave’, that democratic and pro-human rights States begin to consult and coordinate their work – in order to ensure that these vital new tools remain credible, and to ensure that they serve universal accountability and justice, rather than narrow political or economic interests,” he writes.

The UK intends to pursue an independent sanctions policy, having previously only imposed sanctions in conjunction with the UN or EU, analysts suggest. Britain will be able to act more swiftly than the EU should it choose to, given that the EU system is often delayed by divisions between the 27 member states. Progress on an EU-wide Magnitsky Act remains slow, prompting member states to consider adopting their own legislation at the national level.








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