Ninety human rights and anti-corruption organisations from around the world have made an impassioned plea to the EU to establish a global sanctions programme that will hold both individual and entities accountable for human rights violations.
In a joint letter to the Foreign Affairs Council on 5 December the organisations, including Aditus Foundation, Platform for Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), Article 19 and PEN America, expressed their “strong support” for the start of a process aimed to bring serious repercussions to those that refuse to abide by international human rights and anti-corruption legislation.
The signatories said they hoped that this would begin a process of providing the EU with an essential tool to assist them in fighting impunity, and to help defend human rights across the world.
“Today, more than ever, we recognise that the promotion and protection of equal and inalienable rights form the basis of justice, peace, and security. Where human rights are violated and corruption is allowed to flourish, individuals are less safe and communities are less stable and secure.
“With universal human rights and the rule of law under significant challenge globally, now is an opportune moment to take an unmistakable step forward in defence of our common values,” the organisations said.
The letter was sent in advance of the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, where the issue will be tabled. The day also marks the 70-year anniversary of the United Nation’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“At a time when it seems that dictators and human rights abusers can murder and steal with impunity, it’s vital that governments committed to the rule of law equip themselves with tools to fight back,” said Rob Berschinski, senior vice president policy at Human Rights First.
If such a targeted sanctions programme is introduced in the EU it would create a system, based on the ‘Global Magnitsky Act’. This could be used by the EU to identify individuals that are responsible for human rights violations around the world, and then impose hefty sanctions on them accordingly.
The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016 is the most comprehensive human rights and anti-corruption legislation in US history and, since its implementation, over 100 foreign individuals and entities have been sanctioned under its provisions. Penalties include the freezing of assets and visa restrictions.
“Robust implementation also has the potential to deter would-be kleptocrats and those that would use violence to silence dissent and maintain their grip on power,” the letter stated.
The 90 human rights organisations encouraged “in the strongest terms” all EU Member States to support the initiative.