'We now need to take the next bold step' - Time for an EU-wide Magnitsky Act
European politicians write to The Irish Times calling for law to combat human rights abusers around the world
The grave of Sergei Magnitsky in Moscow. Photograph: James Hill/The New York Times
Sir, – Sometimes a name means everything. In this case the name Sergei Magnitsky has been globally synonymous with how to fight human rights abuse in the 21st century. His sacrifice has resonated with victims of human rights abuse in every corner of the globe. Legislative acts have been passed bearing his name, creating serious consequences for human rights abusers around the world.
Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who sacrificed his life at the age of 37 standing up to the corruption of the Putin regime. The way in which the Russian government tried to cover up his murder and exonerate the people involved became a symbol of impunity and kleptocracy worldwide. That is why Mr Magnitsky’s bold sacrifice crossed national borders and spoke to people everywhere.
The Magnitsky Acts, which impose visa sanctions and asset freezes on human rights violators, have become emblematic of fighting impunity and kleptocracy around the world. In the 21st century, many human rights abuses are committed for financial gain. Targeting those abusers’ money abroad and their travel is one of the most effective ways of creating consequences. There can be no impunity for generals in Myanmar who hunt down Rohingyas, for arms dealers who breach the weapons embargo against South Sudan, the rapists in the Central African Republic or the killers of the Saudi journalist Khashoggi.
That is why the idea of a Magnitsky Act started with a Russian atrocity but is now global in its scope. Human-rights violators in Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, South Sudan, Burma, and many other countries are already being targeted with Magnitsky sanctions legislation in six countries: the US, Canada, UK, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
We now need to take the next bold step. We need to establish an EU-wide Magnitsky Act. The European Parliament has already called for this many times and in 2014 even proposed visa bans and asset freezes against people responsible for the Magnitsky murder. Only a few member states took up this proposal.
The European Council failed to act, but now this initiative is finally gaining momentum. Over the summer, the Dutch government formulated a concrete proposal, which is now in consultation with all EU member states. This draft is exactly what is needed, the ability to apply global sanctions – with one glaring omission. The Dutch government has not yet named it a Magnitsky Act. Some would argue that Magnitsky’s name would somehow make it harder for a unanimous approval of the legislation. We don’t believe that our member states would veto a human rights Bill simply because of its name, but will adopt it because of their support to human rights worldwide. Whatever the negotiations will lead to, we will always call it the Magnitsky Act.
On Monday, December 10th, European ministers of foreign affairs will meet to discuss the Dutch proposal. Just one vote against would mean the end of this legislation. That is why parliamentarians and lawmakers from 18 EU member states urge our governments to strengthen the EU’s position as a beacon for human rights and international law worldwide.
We urge our governments to vote for this European Magnitsky Act that is global in scope. We urge them to honour Magnitsky in name and fight impunity worldwide. We cannot think of any better way to celebrate Human Rights Day and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this Monday. – Yours, etc,
SJOERD SJOERDSMA MP
AASTRUP-JENSEN MP (Denmark),
BORIANA ABERG MP
IAN AUSTIN MP
FERNANDO MAURA BARANDIARÁN MP (Spain),
JANIS BORDANS MP (Latvia),
TOM BRAKE MP (United Kingdom),
CHRIS BRYANT MP
MIREILLE CLAPOT MP (France),
CRISTIAN DAN PREDA MEP (Romania),
MARK DEMESMAEKER MEP (Belgium),
ANNA FOTYGA MEP
CRISTIAN GHINEA MP (Romania),
ANA GOMES MEP
HELEN GOODMAN MP (United Kingdom),
REBECCA HARMS MEP (Germany),
MARGARET HODGE MP (United Kingdom),
GUNNAR HOKMARK MEP (Sweden),
EVA JOLY MEP (France),
SANDRA KALNIETE MEP (Latvia),
TUNNE KELAM MEP
STEPHEN KINNOCK MP (United Kingdom),
KRISPER MP (Austria),
EERIK-NIILES KROSS MP (Estonia),
CATHERINE MURPHY TD (Ireland),
DELPHINE O MP (France),
PIETER OMTZIGT MP (Netherlands),
ADRIAN PRISNEL MP
Senator ROBERTO RAMPI
Dr NORBERT RÖTTGEN MP (Germany),
BOB SEELY MP (United Kingdom),
MANUEL SARRAZIN MP (Germany),
PETRI SARVAMAA MEP (Finland),
MARIETJE SCHAAKE MEP (Netherlands),
CHARLES TANNOCK MEP (United Kingdom),
INDREK TARAND MEP
GUY VERHOFSTADT MEP (Belgium),
EMANUELIS ZINGERIS MP (Lithuania).