Members' Research Service By / December 8, 2021

Global human rights sanctions – Mapping Magnitsky laws: The US, Canadian, UK and EU approach [Policy Podcast]

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian tax expert who claimed to have uncovered massive fraud involving corrupt tax officials.

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Written by Martin Russell.

Human rights sanctions are nothing new, but the death in 2009 of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky in detention resulted in calls for more vigorous action to counter continuing abuses in many countries. Adopted by the US in 2016, the Global Magnitsky Act was the first of a new generation of human rights sanctions programmes, which, in contrast to traditional sanctions targeted at individual countries, can be flexibly applied to perpetrators from all over the world, regardless of their geographical location.

This briefing compares four such programmes: the US Global Magnitsky Act, Canada’s Sergei Magnitsky Law, the UK’s Global Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Regulations, and the EU’s restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses, the most recent of the four to be adopted. All of these are inspired by the ambition to tackle serious human rights crimes from around the world, but there are also significant differences, for example, in terms of the threshold for human rights offences, the inclusion or not of corruption-related offences, and the role played by parliaments and civil society.

In terms of practical application, Global Magnitsky is by far the most active of the four programmes for the time being, targeting over 300 individuals and entities from 40 countries. Traditional geographical sanctions still predominate in all four jurisdictions; nevertheless, restrictive measures applied under global programmes to Chinese, Russian and Saudi officials highlight the role that such sanctions can play in furthering Western cooperation on human rights.

This briefing has been written as part of a collaborative project between the European Parliament’s Research Service and Directorate-General for External Policies on mapping best practices in global human rights sanctions regimes.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Global human rights sanctions – Mapping Magnitsky laws: The US, Canadian, UK and EU approach‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘Global human rights sanctions – Mapping Magnitsky laws: The US, Canadian, UK and EU approach‘ on YouTube.

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