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The EU's new global human rights sanctions regime


Yesterday, 7 December 2020, the EU adopted a new global human rights sanctions regime, equipping itself with a framework for targeting serious human violations and abuses.

The new regime is set out in Council Regulation (EU) 2020/1998 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2020/1999. According to a press release from the Council, the adopted framework will allow the EU to "target individuals, entities and bodies – including state and non-state actors – responsible for, involved in or associated with serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, no matter where they occurred."

The new sanctions regime takes aim at those directly or indirectly responsible for the international crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as certain "serious human rights violations or abuses" (e.g. torture, slavery, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests or detentions). Further, the Directive targets other human rights violations and abuses when these are "widespread, systematic or are otherwise of serious concern as regards the objectives of the common foreign and security policy [...]". Note that the regulation's Article 2 (2) clarifies that the definitions and content of these crimes must be understood in light of customary international law and a non-exhaustive list of "widely accepted instruments of international law".

The regime allows for imposing travel bans, freezing of funds and a prohibition on making funds available for those listed.

Subject to sanctions are those "responsible" for the violations of international law described above. Importantly, the scope of sanctions also encompasses persons, entities or bodies who provide financial, technical, or material support for those listed, or are "otherwise involved" in the violations. In addition, persons, entities and bodies "associated with" those listed are comprised. The sanctions thus potentially have a wide reach.

As of yet, no person, entity or body has been listed under the new regime.

WR Sanctions Alerts provide you with updates on material developments in the country-specific sanctions programs implemented by the US, the UN, the UK, the EU and Norway. We will not provide updates on mere prolongations, without material changes, of existing sanctions programs, nor on any listings or de-listings of individuals/entities placed on implemented sanctions lists . Please note that the WR Sanctions Alerts are provided as general information and do not constitute legal advice.

Profile image of Tine Elisabeth Vigmostad
Tine Elisabeth Vigmostad
E-mail tvi@wr.no

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