Sunday

19th Jan 2020

Opinion

The Magnitsky Act - and its name

  • Sergei Magnitsky was murdered in a Russian jail (Photo: Hermitage Capital)

On Thursday, the European Parliament will vote on a resolution to introduce a sanctions regime for human rights violations, more known as a "European Magnitsky Act".

The parliament has prior to this adopted a report on EU-Russia political relations, which included a call for a European Magnitsky Act.

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We must now act on these calls for common action.

It is regrettable that members of the Socialist and Green party group together with the extreme right and left earlier this week voted against the name Magnitsky.

Including Magnitsky's name in the legislation, rather than the more bureaucratic name, the "European human rights violations sanctions regime" does not only have a symbolic meaning by remembering the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, but serves as an important clarification of its content.

It is a way to send a strong political signal, that we are prepared to sanction anyone who by criminal activities - be it a prime minister, a general or a prosecutor - tries to make himself rich at the expense of the citizens.

It is a message to anyone who tries to manipulate the rule of law in Europe in order to escape the lack of rule of law in his own country, wherever in the world this may be.

The Magnitsky sanctions shall not be regarded as a resting instrument, only to be used when comfortable, but as an active measure to fight crime that is mixed with the misuse of public power.

Visas denied, accounts blocked

When those who undermine rule of law decisively tries to benefit themselves, we in Europe should be able to deny their visas and block the accounts that they have brought illicit funds into from their own countries in order to hide these activities.

The money launderers will face a reality where their money is being blocked in the laundromat, be it a bank or another financial institute.

The Magnitsky legislation puts justice to citizens who get robbed, punishes those who violate fundamental human rights and freedoms, rule of law and peace, and should be applied with a global perspective.

In this context, it is a disappointment that so many MEPs in the Socialist and Green group in the European parliament caved in to Russian interests, in fear of challenging a plutocratic regime, by saying no to naming the Magnitsky legislation by its rightful name: Magnitsky.

The council should not make the same mistake when discussing the proposal of a human rights violations sanctions regime.

What's in a name?

In this case, much.

The name is not only a symbol. It is a message and a definition of what we want to achieve.

If we give in to robber capitalism, we undermine the market economy and our own democracies.

The Greens and the Socialists place themselves on the wrong side in an ongoing conflict about rule of law and the integrity of European democracies.

Author bio

Gunnar Hokmark is an MEP and head of the Swedish European People's Party delegation in the European Parliament.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Unanimity under review, if new EU sanctions to work

Any new regime should focus on individual perpetrators, such as the prison guards and low-level administrators and officers - but it must also similarly allow the listing of individuals higher up in the command chain.

EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name

Sergei Magnitsky gave his life to fighting corruption. The least we can do is to honour his sacrifice in the name of the legislation that his heroism inspired.

Name row on new EU sanctions exposes deeper rift

EU officials have voiced scepticism on proposed new human rights sanctions, amid a "nasty" debate to what extent Russia ought to be named and shamed in the title of the new measures.

EU sanctions regime cannot be an 'EU Magnitsky Act'

The debate about the choice of name should not boil down to a political muscle show against Hungary, which opposes the reference to Magnitsky because of its political relations with the Russian government.

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Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act

"If evil is not defeated, it tends to expand", Natalia Magnitskaya, the widow of a Russian anti-corruption activist, has said, as EU diplomats discuss human rights sanctions 10 years after his death.

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