Statement regarding the adoption of the EU global human rights sanctions regime

08 December 2020

Following years of ardent campaigning, the long-awaited EU global human rights sanctions regime entered into force on the 7th of December 2020, the 20th anniversary of the ratification of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. The targeted sanctions regime reinforces existing Magnitsky-style regimes, helping to globally dismantle the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of serious human rights violations and abuses.

The implementation of an EU-wide sanctions regime which administers travel bans and asset freezes against perpetrators and their subsequent entities, expands the network of jurisdictions that are able to impose sanctions to the additional 27 member states of the EU. The legislation, however, is limited in scope, primarily regarding the exclusion of corruption as a sanctionable offence.

Where there are human rights violations, more often than not, corruption lurks in the shadows. Often, victims of human rights violations are so as a consequence of their roles in exposing networks of corruption, as was the case of Sergei Magnitsky. Including corruption as a sanctionable offence will bolster the effectiveness of the new EU regime.

We understand that it will require diligence to adopt an appropriate anti-corruption regime. However, the longer it takes for the EU to bolster its arsenal, the more time and opportunity is given to perpetrators to move assets, to conceal crucial, incriminating evidence and to perpetuate their criminal networks and activity. The EU cannot afford to let clear acts of corruption slip through the cracks. Additionally, the Council’s procedure to vote on sanctions by “unanimity” - as opposed to a qualified majority - is a further concern in causing delays or even obstacles to designating necessary sanctions.

Undoubtedly, the EU global human rights sanctions regime provides critically needed tools to continue eradicating human rights abuses around the world. Multilateral action will make it clear that gross violations of human rights and acts of corruption are incompatible with European democracy. The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation calls for the EU to expand its parameters to include acts of corruption, strengthening its sanctions regime and bringing it in line with other Magnitsky-style regimes, like those of the U.S and Canada.

What are Magnitsky Sanctions?

Catalysed by the death of Sergei Magnitsky - a Russian lawyer who died in prison where he was held and abused in 2009 after exposing high-level state corruption - and spearheaded by the campaign led by Bill Browder, the Magnitsky Act was first adopted by the U.S in 2012. Magnitsky-style sanctions regimes have become an essential tool in international diplomacy, holding individual perpetrators to account without having to dismantle the bilateral relations between respective states.