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Netherlands Proposes New EU Human Rights Sanctions Regime

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok (file photo)
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- The Netherlands is proposing a new EU sanctions regime that would target individuals accused of human rights abuses worldwide.

Government officials from all 28 EU member states will meet in The Hague on November 20 to discuss the Dutch proposal outlined in a position paper called Towards An EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.

The document, seen by RFE/RL on November 19, says the proposed sanctions regime "differs significantly from the existing EU geographically limited sanctions regimes," which it says aim to "change state behavior and are therefore political in nature."

The proposed regime "could target individual human rights violators globally, unrelated to the political context and intergovernmental developments. It could also be used against individuals belonging to non-State actors (i.e. rebel groups)," the paper says.

The document says asset freezes and visa bans should be placed on individuals who "commit serious human rights violations and abuses" such as extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, enforced disappearances, and torture.

"We have seen in a number of human rights violations over the last couple of years where individual countries have introduced the possibility of implementing sanctions on individuals involved," Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok told RFE/RL on the sidelines of an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels.

"But currently there is not an EU-wide sanction instrument and of course sanctions are most effective if they would be EU-wide," Blok added.

Sergei Magnitsky (1972-2009)
Sergei Magnitsky (1972-2009)

On November 19, Russian authorities leveled new accusations at British-based financier Bill Browder, saying the vocal Kremlin critic is now suspected of involvement in the death of his associate Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail in 2009.

In a tweet, Browder dismissed the new accusations as "Kafkaesque," saying they come one day before "the Dutch government will be inviting all EU member states to The Hague to propose an EU wide Magnitsky Act."

Magnitsky was arrested after exposing a scheme in which officials allegedly defrauded the Russian state of $230 million. Since his death, Browder has campaigned for laws in nations worldwide that are designed to punish those responsible for human rights abuses -- including the 2012 U.S. Magnitsky Act.

Blok said there was no EU consensus yet on the Dutch proposal but said he was "optimistic about it."

The minister added that EU foreign ministers could discuss the proposal at their next meeting in Brussels on December 10.

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