EU adopts Human Rights Protection Instrument

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The Council of the European Union adopted a regulation Monday establishing a global human rights sanctions regime. The regulation is meant to allow the EU to target individuals, entities and bodies, including state and non-state actors, that are responsible or associated with serious human rights violations worldwide. It also targets individuals and entities associated with such perpetrators.

The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (EUGHRSR) covers serious human rights violations such as genocide, crimes against humanity, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, slavery, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings, enforced disappearance of persons, arbitrary arrests or detentions.

The mechanism bans targeted perpetrators from entering the EU, freezes perpetrators’ assets in the EU and prohibits any EU person or entity from making funds and economic resources available to perpetrators. The regulation, however, also provides specific exceptions for humanitarian purposes, such as the satisfaction of basic needs of designated persons and their dependent family members, including payments for foodstuffs, medicines and medical treatment.

“(1) On 7 December 2020, the Council adopted Decision (CFSP) 2020/1999, which establishes a framework for targeted restrictive measures to address serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide. That Decision provides for the freezing of funds and economic resources of, and the prohibition to make funds and economic resources available to, natural or legal persons, entities or bodies responsible for, providing support to or otherwise involved in serious human rights violations or abuses, as well as those associated with the natural and legal persons, entities and bodies
covered. Natural and legal persons, entities and bodies subject to the restrictive measures are listed in the Annex to Decision (CFSP) 2020/1999. That Decision emphasises the importance of international human rights law and of the interaction between international human rights law and international humanitarian law when considering the application of targeted restrictive measures.
(2) This Regulation respects the fundamental rights and observes the principles recognised by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular the right to an effective remedy, the right to defence, and the right to the protection of personal data. This Regulation should be applied in accordance with those rights.

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stressed the importance of the move, stating:

We need a global regime to gain more flexibility to go after the perpetrators regardless of where they are and dispenses us from having to set up a specific legal framework each time for each specific case. With the new sanctions regime, we will be able to proceed quicker and to be more efficient.

The move puts the EU in line with countries such as the US that have already put in place so-called “Magnitsky Acts” that allow states to punish foreign officials that transgress human rights.

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