Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Dutch MPs follow Danes in debate on Russia sanctions

  • The Dutch parliament in The Hague: the government invited to give response in three months (Photo: Pieter Musterd)

Dutch MPs are to debate imposing asset freezes and visa bans on Kremlin cronies in response to the UK attack, building on similar moves in Nordic and Baltic states.

Pieter Omtzigt, an MP from the centre-right CDA party in the ruling coalition in The Hague, set the ball rolling this week by asking the government to consider imposing a Magnitsky Act at national level and to push for similar measures by the EU.

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  • Sergei Magnitsky: Stolen funds linked to activist's death ended up in pockets of Putin's friends (Photo: Hermitage Capital)

Magnitsky Acts are a form of sanctions named after a Russian activist, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after exposing a corruption scheme involving the inner circle of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

They are disliked by the Kremlin because they mandate Western governments to freeze the funds of Russian individuals on human rights grounds, putting pressure on the ruling elite.

"We call on the government to take steps toward adopting a Magnitsky Act in both the Dutch and European contexts. We ask that the government inform the house [Dutch MPs] within three months regarding the steps they are taking in regards to this matter," Omtzigt said in a motion filed this week after the UK incident.

The move came after the ruling party in Denmark called for a hearing on a Danish Magnitsky Act also in the wake of the UK attack.

About 40 percent of MPs in Sweden support Swedish Magnitsky sanctions.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as Canada and the US, already have Magnitsky sanctions in place.

They all passed the laws prior to Russia's attempt to kill a former spy in the UK using a chemical weapon earlier this month, but the UK attack spurred Estonia, on Thursday (29 March), to enforce the law by imposing a visa ban on 49 Russians linked to Magnitsky's death.

"We cannot leave gross violations of human rights unanswered," Estonian foreign minister Sven Mikser said.

"We must all respond to incidents undermining the rule-based world order, thus contributing to our own security as well," he added, in a nod to the UK attack.

The UK itself, as well as Jersey, a UK protectorate and an offshore banking centre that hosts Russian assets, are also planning to move ahead with Magnitsky bills.

"It's huge if the offshore centres do a Magnitsky Act because that's where the bad guys keep big money," Bill Browder, Magnitsky's former employer, told EUobserver.

Browder, a British national who used to run a hedge fund in Russia before becoming a human rights campaigner, had fought for EU-level sanctions for the past eight years before the UK incident.

He said it was "absurd" he had had to go country by country in the 28 EU states to get things moving, while blaming EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini for having personally quashed calls for an EU-level response.

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