Friday 14 May 2021
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European politicians want Magnitsky law against foreign leaders

A few dozen parliamentarians are calling on the new European Commission to make the introduction of a European law against human rights violations one of the priorities of the new foreign policy. They call it a "big blunder" that the new Commission has not yet included the so-called Magnitsky law in the list of priorities for the coming years.

The call has been signed by MEPs and national politicians from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, among others. The law is named after the Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky. In 2009 he died under suspicious circumstances in a prison cell in Moscow. Magnitsky is said to have encountered tax fraud by senior Russian officials and politicians.

The United States, Canada and Great Britain, among others, already have a Magnitsky law. Such a law makes it possible to impose sanctions against Russian individuals and companies such as the freezing of bank balances and the introduction of visa bans.

The Dutch parliament recently called on Prime Minister Rutte's cabinet to also introduce such a Magnitsky Act in the Netherlands if it were not to succeed on a European scale. Earlier this year, therefore, the Netherlands submitted a proposal in EU to deal with foreign affairs and politicians, not only for human rights violations but also for financial and economic fraud and crimes. This gives the Dutch proposal a broader and more general approach than the Magnitsky law, because it is no longer aimed solely at Russian suspects.

One of the stumbling blocks and objections of some EU countries is precisely that reference to Magnitsky in the law. The link to the death of the Russian accountant could give the impression that the law is directed against Russia, while the aim is to tackle human rights violations worldwide. The Netherlands is therefore not talking about a Magnitsky law, but about a EU sanction regime.

Earlier this year there was a lot of support for that discussion of that Dutch proposal, but it was not yet possible to make final decisions. Because it is now up to the new European Commission to complete the treatment, it was expected that the Von der Leyen Commission would include the new against human rights violators in the new foreign policy. The two new European leaders, EU president Michel and EC president Von der Leyen, both said they want a more self-aware and active EU on the world stage.

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