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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

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 19, 2021 - Podcasts

Bill Browder on Russia-U.S. relations after Alexei Navalny's arrest

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was recently arrested in Moscow, just months after being poisoned in an assassination attempt, in what could become Joe Biden’s first major foreign policy test.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Bill Browder, an investor and author who has his own history of clashing with Putin, to better understand the Navalny situation and how the U.S. might respond by using a law that Browder helped create.

China sanctions top Trump alumni one day after Uyghur genocide determination

Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

China's Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday it would sanction 28 "anti-China" U.S. politicians, including a slew of top officials from the outgoing Trump administration such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser John Bolton and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Between the lines, via Axios China expert Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: Chinese government officials have traditionally decried the use of unilateral sanctions by Western countries, even though China regularly blocks foreign companies and individuals from its markets for perceived political slights.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.