Dec 7, 2020 - World

EU adopts human rights sanctions framework styled after Magnitsky Act

Ursula von der Leyen

European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

The European Union has officially adopted a sanctions regime that would implement travel bans and asset freezes against those found responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses, the leaders of the bloc's 27 countries announced Monday.

Why it matters: The EU is the world’s largest single market area and a leading promoter of democratic values, but has been criticized in the past for its failures to put teeth into its calls for the protection of human rights.

Between the lines: The new framework is modeled after the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law named for investor and activist Bill Browder's late attorney Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian jail after uncovering a massive fraud scheme allegedly involving government officials.

  • Browder has previously said that a European Magnitsky Act would be "probably the most devastating thing that could happen to the Putin regime" given the property and assets that key players own in Europe.
  • He told Axios earlier this year that the first targets of the law should be the people who killed Magnitsky — followed swiftly by the perpetrators of the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, the operators of mass detention camps in Xinjiang, and the authorities cracking down on protests in Hong Kong and Belarus.

The big picture: The EU, U.S., U.K. and Canada now all have Magnitsky-style sanctions regimes, in addition to smaller countries like Kosovo and the Baltic states. The Australian parliament has also recommended that its government adopt a similar framework.

Go deeper: How the EU plans to take on human rights abusers

Go deeper