Wednesday

29th Jan 2020

Romania builds EU momentum on human rights sanctions

Opposition MPs in Romania have tabled a human rights sanctions law named after a late Russian activist, in a "symbolic" boost for EU-level sanctions of the same type.

Adrian Prisnel, Iulian Bulai, and Cristian Ghinea from the Save Romania Union, the third largest party in parliament, put forward their initiative on Monday (15 April).

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It was signed by 33 MPs out of 136, most of them from their own faction, but also by three deputies from the ruling Social Democratic Party and two from the National Liberal Party, the second largest, indicating broader support.

The bill called for Romanian visa bans and asset freezes on people guilty of "torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, conviction on political or other grounds, [and] grave violations of internationally recognised human rights".

The people should be blacklisted based on "evidence obtained by other states" and "non-governmental organisations for protection of human rights" as well as Romania's own information, it added.

The new sanctions were to be more "flexible" than older, country-based ones and were meant to have a "strong psychological effect" on the abusers.

The Romanian law is to be named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption activist who died in prison in 2009 and in whose honour Britain, Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the US have already passed similar 'Magnitsky Acts'.

Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Moldova, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, and Ukraine are debating similar measures.

Diplomats in the EU Council are also debating what the Dutch have proposed to call an "EU global human rights regime" - visa bans and asset freezes on human rights abusers, but with no reference to the Magnitsky case in Russia.

The fact Romania, which holds the EU presidency until 1 July, was moving ahead on a national level would lend "symbolic support" to the EU-level action, an EU diplomat said.

"I wonder if the Romanian act includes 'corruption' as a criterion?", the diplomat added, given Romania's poor reputation for graft in Europe.

The Romanian draft bill did not list corruption as a factor, however.

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