Global Human Rights Defence

How the New Thematic EU Sanctions Regime Works

Source: Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

Author: Elia Duran-Smith

Department: Europe

The European Union (EU) has, since its inception, seen itself as a major promoter and defender of human rights both within its borders and around the world. Its aim to promote respect for human rights in its common foreign and security policy was enshrined in the EU’s foundational Treaty on European Union, known as the Maastricht Treaty, and subsequent iterations like the Treaty of Lisbon (Treaty of European Union, 1992, Article J.1.2; Treaty of Lisbon, 2007, Article 21.1). A major tool used by states and intergovernmental organisations to attempt to impel those who violate fundamental human rights to reform their actions is what the EU calls restrictive measures, more often known as sanctions (‘Restrictive measures (sanctions)’, n.d.). The EU has long placed sanctions on foreign actors accused of committing abuses against human rights. However, in late 2020, the EU adopted a new kind of sanctions regime, shifting from a geographical focus to a thematic focus. This article explains the new regime that came into force in 2021 and its first targets.

The EU’s sanctions approach prior to 2020 was to individually target state or non-state individuals, entities and/or entities in a particular country on a case by case basis. Because this was seen as such a pointed action, it meant the EU would not target as many human rights abusers as under the new sanctions regime, as this may have threatened the EU’s external relations-particularly with its allies. 

Adopted on December 7th 2020, the new regime, officially called the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (GHRSR), issues sanctions to numerous actors from different countries based on a common violation of human rights, therefore not targeting any country in particular, but signalling the EU’s general condemnation of the abuse of a specific human right (Russell, 2020, p. 1).

The GHRSR applies sanctions to human rights offenders involved in the following major crimes: genocide; crimes against humanity; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; slavery; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings; enforced disappearance of persons; and arbitrary arrests or detentions. Sanctions are also levied for other human rights violations that are “widespread, systematic or otherwise of serious concern”, including human trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence and violations of freedom of peaceful assembly, association, opinion and expression, religion and belief (Russell, 2020, p. 6). The types of sanctions the EU employs include prohibitions on the export of arms and related equipment, “restrictions on admission (visa/travel bans)”, “economic measures such as restrictions on imports and exports”, and “freezing of funds and economic resources owned by targeted individuals or entities” (Publications Office of the European Union, 2021).

This new sanctions regime also allows much more swift action to be taken against human rights abusers in coordination with the EU’s key partners in this area-namely the UK, US and Canada-which could have a much more significant impact (Russell, 2020, p. 3).

The new regime is not without controversy, however, as civil society, MEPs and Dutch and German parliamentarians have criticised the process of selecting sanctions targets for being exclusive. They point out the fact that these decisions are made by the European Council (made up of the heads of government of EU member states) without consultation from civil society. Calls have been made to allow NGOs the possibility of nominating human rights offenders to be examined by a panel of experts which would pass on what it considers the most prominent cases to the European Council for sanctions designation (Russell, 2020, p. 6). Furthermore, the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Chair David McAllister and Subcommittee on Human Rights Chair Maria Arena- have argued that corruption connected to human rights violations, the abuse of state emergency powers and violence against human rights proponents should be sanctionable offences. They have also called for European parliamentary oversight in the sanctions designation process (Arena and McAllister, 2021).

Bibliography

Arena, M. and McAllister, D. (2021, July 19).European Commission must take measures to strengthen EU Magnitsky Act, say senior MEPs’. The Parliament Magazine.

https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/news/article/european-commission-must-take-measures-to-strengthen-eu-magnitsky-act-say-senior-meps

Publications Office of the European Union. (2021, October 13). ‘Restrictive measures (sanctions)’. https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/0738dbdf-2a80-11ec-bd8e-01aa75ed71a1/language-en/format-HTML/source-244350715 

‘Restrictive measures (sanctions)’. (n.d.) European Commission. https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/banking-and-finance/international-relations/restrictive-measures-sanctions_en 

Russell, M. (2020, October). ‘EU Human Rights Sanctions: Towards a European Magnitsky Act’. European Parliamentary Research Service. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2020/659402/EPRS_BRI(2020)659402_EN.pdf 

Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community. (2007, December 13). https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:12007L/TXT 

Treaty on European Union. (1992, July 29). https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:11992M/TXT 

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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.