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Punishing rights abusers, despots

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 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 globe.

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 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.

Sergei Magnitsky’s bold sacrifice crossed national borders and spoke to people everywhere

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, the UK, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

We now need to take the next bold step. We need to establish an EU-wide Magnitsky Act. 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. They argue that Magnitsky’s name would somehow make it harder to push for approval of the legislation through the EU because of some EU member states being sympathetic to Russia. We believe that our member states are stronger than this, that they will not 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 10, European ministers of foreign affairs will meet to discuss the Dutch proposal. That is why parliamentarians and lawmakers from 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 a 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.

Sjoerd Sjoerdsma MP (Netherlands); Michael Aastrup-Jensen MP (Denmark); Boriana Aberg MP (Sweden); Ian Austin MP (UK); Petras Auštrevičius MEP (Lithuania); Tom Brake MP (UK); Chris Bryant MP (UK); Mireille Clapot MP (France); Cristian Dan Preda MEP (Romania); Anna Fotyga MEP (Poland); Ana Gomes MEP (Portugal); Helen Goodman MP (UK); Rebecca Harms MEP (Germany); Margaret Hodge MP (UK); Gunnar Hokmark MEP (Sweden); Eva Joly MEP (France); Tunne Kelam MEP (Estonia); Stephen Kinnock MP (UK); Eerik-Niiles Kross MP (Estonia); Delphine O MP (France); Adrian Prisnel MP (Romania); Senator Roberto Rampi (Italy); Dr Norbert Rottgen MP (Germany); Bob Seely MP (United Kingdom); Manuel Sarrazin MP (Germany); Petri Sarvamma MEP (Finland); Charles Tannock MEP (UK); Indrek Tarand MEP (Estonia); Emanuelis Zingeris MP (Lithuania).

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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