More than 50 politicians from 18 countries demand EU-wide Magnitsky Act to tackle human rights abuses

More than 50 politicians from across Europe have joined forces to demand an EU-wide Magnitsky Act to tackle human rights abuses.

MPs and MEPs from 18 countries said the legislation, named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, was needed to impose tougher sanctions on abusers operating across the globe.

Laws bearing the name of the murdered Russian dissident have been passed in several countries around the world, including the UK.

Several British MPs are among those backing the campaign for EU-wide action, including Labour’s Margaret Hodge, Chris Bryant and Ian Austin, Tory MP Bob Seely and Liberal Democrat Tom Brake.

Writing for The Independent, the MPs and MEPs said the legislation should be used to sanction Burmese generals responsible for the murder of Rohingya Muslims, arms traders selling weapons to South Sudan, and warlords operating in the Central African Republic.

Those found responsible for the killing of Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi should also be penalised, they said. 

They wrote: “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 Jamal Khashoggi.”

They added: “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.”

On 10 December, EU foreign ministers will discuss a Dutch proposal for an EU law similar to a Magnitsky Act, although it is not proposed that it would be named after the Russian. The plan would need the support of every member state if it is to be implemented. 

The MPs and MEPs called on leaders to “strengthen the EU’s position as a beacon for human rights and international law worldwide”.

They said:  “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.”


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