- The precipitation of the need for a Magnitsky Act was Sergei Magnitsky's death.
- Based on the US Magnitsky Act, Canada followed with the same laws as did former Soviet Baltic nations.
- The proposal by the EU was passed unanimously.
The European Union (EU) announced the beginning of the development of a Human Rights sanctions regime that would be similar to the Magnitsky Act in the US. The announcement came after a meeting with 28 nation representatives in Brussels. The proposal originally came from the European Stability Initative, and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee at the end of 2018.
The precipitation of the need for a Magnitsky Act was Sergei Magnitsky’s death, a Russian accountant tortured in a Moscow jail and denied medical treatment in 2009. He was targeted by the Kremlin due to being a whistle blower into Russian government corruption and fraud. Under President Obama in 2012, the US Congress passed the Magnitsky Act into law imposing sanctions on certain Russian officials (who were believed to be responsible for the human rights violations) by freezing their US assets and barring them from entering the US.
The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act authorizes the president to block or revoke the visas of certain “foreign persons” (both individuals and entities) or to impose property sanctions on them. People can be sanctioned (a) if they are responsible for or acted as an agent for someone responsible for “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” or (b) if they are government officials or senior associates of government officials complicit in “acts of significant corruption.”
Based on the US Magnitsky Act, Canada followed with the same laws as did former Soviet Baltic nations.
EU foreign ministers of the member nations unanimously agreed on the need for such a law. The proposed crimes triggering such sanctions are extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, enforced disappearances, torture and any inhumane treatment. The sanction regime will be targeted and would resemble the pre-existing EU terrorist list.
The proposal was agreed to on December 10, 2018, which was the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
One person who currently needs protection from exposing Kremlin’s regime is Alexei Kungurov, who constantly revelas corruption and is an anti-Putin critic. He just spent another 15 days in jail for his commentary on social media. He was denied legal representation and was detained with his small daughter. The court did not provide him documentation to mount a self defense. He is also looking for asylum due to the systematic attacks and violations of his human rights.
Sadly, human rights violations continue to be a global problem. Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Turkish embassy ambush would be one of the most recent human rights abuses that resulted in a gruesome death. The EU is headed in the right direction to develop and implement such a law. The developed nations need to stand up to such abuses and need to do more in order to protect individuals. One can also hope the next act to explore is the EU taking a stance and imposing sanctions for systematic animal abuse at the same level. It would be a step in the right direction.