European Union foreign ministers have agreed on 9 December to go ahead with a “Magnitsky Act” legislation to impose bans on human rights violators.
“We have agreed to launch the preparatory work for a global sanctions regime to address serious human rights violations”, said the EU’s new foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, adding that the move would give the EU “much more strength and much more capacity to act.”
The new framework was first presented by the Netherlands a year ago. It would give the EU the power to ban identified human rights abusers from travelling to the Union and to freeze their assets.
The act is similar to the United States’ 2012 Magnitsky Act. Sergei Magnitsky was a whistle-blower who accused Russian officials of stealing state money through fraudulent tax refunds. He died in police custody after being denied medical care.
The move seen as primarily targeting Russia. If applied, the sanctions could lead to losses for many Russian officials and businessmen, who have homes and bank accounts in Europe.
“This is a gigantic development. If human rights violators cannot travel to Europe, it will be devastating for them,” said hedge fund manager Bill Browder, who has lobbied for the law.
The act has been hailed by US officials as a “huge win” for human rights. However, according to EU officials, it could take several months to complete.