EU adopts new global human rights sanctions regime

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On 7th December 2020, the Council of the European Union adopted a new global human rights sanctions regime expanding the possibilities for the EU to adopt targeted sanctions (such as travel bans and asset freezes) against individuals, entities and bodies responsible for, involved in or associated with serious human rights violations worldwide. This global regime will coexist with the currently available country regimes – such as against Belarus or Myanmar – but will add the possibility for the EU to adopt restrictive measures against perpetrators of human rights violations regardless of where they occurred.

The regime will cover genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations such as torture, slavery, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests of detentions. It will also consider other violations or abuses, such as trafficking in human beings or sexual or gender-based violence, as long as those violations or abuses are widespread, systemic or serious.

The decision to list names under the new regime will be taken by Member States, acting unanimously at the Council of the European Union. Civil society will be able to take part in the identification of perpetrators by suggesting names of individuals or entities they consider should be sanctioned. Listed individuals and entities will have the option to challenge their listing at the European Court of Justice.

Over the past year, FIDH has taken part in a civil society coalition that has been advocating for the EU to adopt such a regime to complement existing EU policies and other sanctions regimes under several perspectives, in particular to cover cases in which country-specific sanctions programmes are inappropriate or unfeasible, cross-border cases, and geographic areas outside of government control.

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