Global Human Rights Defence

2021 EU Human Rights Sanctions Targets

Source: Getty

Author: Elia Duran-Smith

Department: Europe

Introduction

On 10 December, in observation of the United Nations’ Human Rights Day (which marks the date of the adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the European Union’s (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell outlined the steps taken by the EU to live up to its foundational principle of protecting and promoting human rights around the world in the 2020s. He noted that the EU will provide over €1.5 billion to civil society organisations and human rights defenders from 2021-2027. This supplements the EU’s new thematic human rights sanctions regime. In 2021, the EU launched its first sanctions under this new regime named the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (GHRSR). This article breaks down who has been targeted since the new sanctions regime was adopted and the kinds of sanctions levied against them.

Russia

The first sanctions levied under the GHRSR were against 4 Russian state officials “responsible for serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as widespread and systematic repression of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and freedom of opinion and expression in Russia”. This was particularly a response to their roles in the “arbitrary arrest, prosecution and sentencing” of leading opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny and the repression of the widespread protests against his treatment. These include the Head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, Prosecutor-General Igor Krasnov, the Head of the National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, and Head of the Federal Prison Service Alexander Kalashnikov. The sanctions included a travel ban, asset freeze and the prohibition of EU citizens and entities making funds available to these individuals.

Myanmar

In response to the military coup on 1 February and subsequent repression of peaceful demonstrations, the EU placed travel bans and asset freezes on 11 individuals involved in March 2021. This primarily included members of the Tatmadaw (the highest ranks of the Myanmar Armed Forces), including its Commander-in-Chief and Deputy-Commander-in-Chief. The Chairperson of the Union Election Commission responsible for cancelling the 2020 elections was also targeted. These individuals have been barred from receiving funds from EU citizens and corporations.

In a second round of sanctions, the EU also targeted 10 individuals who the European Council stated were implicated in the military junta’s human rights violations. Two corporations controlled by the junta and which provide it with revenue were also subjected to sanctions. 

On 21 June 2021, the European Council placed sanctions on a further 8 individuals and 3 economic entities, as well as the War Veterans Organisation (WVO), for their role in the coup and the subsequent repression of protests. The individuals targeted included ministers and deputy ministers, and the attorney general for “undermining democracy and the rule of law and for serious human rights violations in the country”. The economic entities and the WVO are all state-owned or controlled by the Tatmadaw and have supported its operations. 

Overall, 43 individuals and 6 entities have been subject to the EU’s sanctions, which include asset freezes, denial of financial support from EU citizens and companies, and a ban on travel into or through EU territory. Additionally, the EU has established an arms and equipment embargo to the military junta, an export ban on dual-use goods that may be used by military and border guard police, and export restrictions on equipment for monitoring communications that could be used to repress free speech in Myanmar. It is also prohibited for EU member states to conduct military training or cooperation with the Tatmadaw. 

Belarus

The EU has imposed sanctions on Belarus since October 2020, following what were widely seen by the international community as fraudulent presidential elections and the crackdown and torture of dissidents across the country who protested against them. In December 2021, the EU sanctioned a further 17 individuals and 11 entities linked to human rights violations in Belarus. This brings the number of sanctions targets to 183 individuals and 26 entities, which have been subject to asset freezes and travel bans barring them from entering or transiting through EU territory. EU citizens and companies have been banned from supplying funds to these individuals and entities. Individuals targeted include prominent figures in the Lukashenko regime, senior members of the country’s Supreme Court and the State Control Committee, alongside propaganda outlets, which have been embroiled in repressing Belarusian civil society, democratic opposition, and independent media. 

Moreover, in connection to the crisis reportedly orchestrated by the regime at its borders with EU states like Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, the EU has sanctioned corporations, tour operators and hotel groups that have helped facilitate the illegal border crossings. One of the corporations sanctioned includes the state-owned airline Belavia, which has instructed employees not to protest against any election results or suppressions of political opposition. 

Responding to this crisis, Borrell has said, “the European Union will not tolerate the orchestrated and politically motivated instrumentalisation of human beings by the Lukashenko regime. This cynical strategy of exploiting vulnerable people is an abhorrent attempt to deflect attention from the regime’s continued disregard for international law, fundamental freedoms and human rights in Belarus”. 

However, the EU’s sanctions approach has been met with criticism from Svetlana Tikhanovskaya-the opposition leader living in exile in Lithuania, who has been reported as the legitimate winner of the 2020 Belarusian presidential elections. She said the sanctions did not go far enough, adding, “I understand that the fifth package [of EU sanctions] that is going to be imposed will be only about the migrant crisis. But I have to say that the migrant crisis cannot be discussed in separation from the political crisis [within Belarus]”. She has called for more robust sanctions that also recognise the millions of Belarusians “suffering because of this dictatorship”.

Conclusion

Time is yet to tell whether this new sanctions regime will leave a lasting impact on the state of human rights across the world, but it appears to be that the GHRSR has allowed the EU to rapidly respond to human rights abusers in issuing multiple rounds of sanctions against actors in countries like Myanmar and Belarus. However, it has come under fire for too pointedly targeting specific events of human rights violations rather than ongoing, pervasive suppression. 

Notes

[1] For further information on the GHSR, please refer to our previous article named “How the new thematic EU sanctions regime works” on ghrd.org.

[2] Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime: EU sanctions four people responsible for serious human rights violations in Russia’, 2021

[3] ‘Myanmar/Burma: EU sanctions 11 people over the recent military coup and ensuing repression’, 2021

[4] ‘Myanmar/Burma: EU imposes sanctions on 10 individuals and two military-controlled companies over the February military coup and subsequent repression’, 2021

[5] ‘Myanmar/Burma: third round of EU sanctions over the military coup and subsequent repression’, 2021

[6] ‘Myanmar/Burma: third round of EU sanctions over the military coup and subsequent repression’, 2021

[7] ‘Myanmar/Burma: third round of EU sanctions over the military coup and subsequent repression’, 2021

[8] ‘Belarus: EU adopts 5th package of sanctions over continued human rights abuses and the instrumentalisation of migrants’, 2021

[9] ‘Belarus: EU adopts 5th package of sanctions over continued human rights abuses and the instrumentalisation of migrants’, 2021

[10] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2021

[11]  ‘Belarus: EU adopts 5th package of sanctions over continued human rights abuses and the instrumentalisation of migrants’, 2021

[12] Vock, 2021

[13]  Vock, 2021

Bibliography

‘Belarus: EU adopts 5th package of sanctions over continued human rights abuses and the instrumentalisation of migrants’. (2021, December 2). European Council. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/12/02/belarus-eu-adopts-5th-package-of-sanctions-over-continued-human-rights-abuses-and-the-instrumentalisation-of-migrants/ 

Borrell, J. (2021, December 10). Human Rights Day: Declaration by the High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Union. European Council. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/12/09/human-rights-day-declaration-by-the-high-representative-josep-borrell-on-behalf-of-the-european-union/ 

‘Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime: EU sanctions four people responsible for serious human rights violations in Russia’. (2021, March 2). European Council. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/03/02/global-human-rights-sanctions-regime-eu-sanctions-four-people-responsible-for-serious-human-rights-violations-in-russia/

‘Myanmar/Burma: EU imposes sanctions on 10 individuals and two military-controlled companies over the February military coup and subsequent repression’. (2021, April 19). European Council. 

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/04/19/myanmar-burma-eu-imposes-sanctions-on-10-individuals-and-two-military-controlled-companies-over-the-february-military-coup-and-subsequent-repression/

‘Myanmar/Burma: EU sanctions 11 people over the recent military coup and ensuing repression’ (2021, March 22). European Council. 

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/03/22/myanmar-burma-eu-sanctions-11-people-over-the-recent-military-coup-and-ensuing-repression/

‘Myanmar/Burma: third round of EU sanctions over the military coup and subsequent repression’. (2021, June 21). European Council. 

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/06/21/myanmar-burma-third-round-of-eu-sanctions-over-the-military-coup-and-subsequent-repression/

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. (2021, November 30). ‘EU Readies More Belarus Sanctions Over Migrant Crisis, Document Reveals’. https://www.rferl.org/a/eu-belarus-sanctions-document-belavia/31586805.html

Vock, I. (2021, November 17). ‘Exclusive: Svetlana Tikhanovskaya calls for tougher EU sanctions on Belarus’. The New Statesman.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Mandakini

Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)
(Europe)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher
(Africa)

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Africa)​

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.

 

Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.