European Union External Action

Questions and Answers: EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime

Brussels, 07/12/2020 - 13:02, UNIQUE ID: 201207_14
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  1. Why was the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime adopted?

Serious human rights violations and abuses are taking place in many parts of the world – frequently without any consequences for the perpetrators. The EU is not prepared to stand by while serious human rights violations and abuses are committed. The establishment of the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (EUGHRSR) is a landmark initiative that underscores the EU’s determination to enhance its role in addressing serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide.

The main goal of the new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime is to enable the EU to stand up in a more tangible and direct way for human rights, one of the fundamental values of the EU and its foreign policy. Respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights underpin the EU’s external action. Acts such as genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, slavery, sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, or human trafficking are unacceptable. Putting an end to these human rights violations and abuses worldwide is a key priority for the EU.

The EU has a set of tools available to address human rights violations and abuses. This includes political dialogue, multilateral partnerships, but also sanctions.

At present, the EU has already listed more than 200 individuals and entities for human rights violations or abuses in its existing geographical sanctions regimes.

The new EUGHRSR allows the EU to target serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, irrespective of where they occur, whereas existing sanctions regimes focus on specific countries.

Sanctions, of course, are not an end in themselves. They are part of the EU’s broader strategy on human rights. For example, the EUGHRSR is an important element in delivering on the EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024, which sets out the overall strategy in this field for the next five years.

The EU uses sanctions as a political tool aimed at policies or activities that the EU wants to influence, the means to conduct those policies or activities and those responsible for them.

  1. Who is targeted by the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime?

The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (EUGHRSR) targets individuals and entities responsible for or involved in serious human rights violations or abuses worldwide. It can also target individuals and entities associated with the perpetrators.

In what regards the nature of the targets, these can be both state and non-state actors, regardless of where they are, and regardless of whether they commit those violations and abuses in their own state, in other states or across borders.

EU sanctions are targeted and never aim at the civilian population. The new EUGHRSR contains specific clauses, incl. a dedicated humanitarian derogation, allowing Member States to authorise actions that would otherwise be restricted, if such actions have humanitarian purposes (see also question 6).

  1. Which acts are covered by the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime?

The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (EUGHRSR) covers serious human rights violations and abuses.

More concretely, acts covered by the EUGHRSR are genocide, crimes against humanity, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, slavery, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings, enforced disappearance of persons, arbitrary arrests or detentions.

It also covers other acts, incl. but not limited to the following, in so far as those violations or abuses are widespread, systematic or are otherwise of serious concern as regards the objectives of the common foreign and security policy set out in Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union: trafficking in human beings, as well as abuses of human rights by migrant smugglers as referred to in this answer, sexual and gender-based violence, violations or abuses of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, violations or abuses of freedom of opinion and expression, violations or abuses of freedom of religion or belief[1].

  1. Which sanctions can the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime impose?

The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (EUGHRSR) can ban perpetrators from entering the EU, freeze perpetrators’ assets in the EU and prohibit any EU person from making funds and economic resources available to perpetrators (see also question 5).

  1. What does the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime mean for EU citizens and economic operators?

The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (EUGHRSR) contributes to the respect for human rights, a fundamental value of the EU. It does so by attaching a cost to serious human rights violations and abuses in the form of banning perpetrators from the EU and freezing their assets in the EU. The restrictions set out in the EUGHRSR also mean that EU operators are obliged to freeze the assets of the perpetrators listed[2] and must not make funds or economic resources available to them.

EU sanctions are applied by EU Member States. For specific questions regarding these prohibitions, please also contact the national competent authorities[3].

For more details on the implementation of the EUGHRSR, please also consult the Commission guidance note on the implementation of certain provisions of Regulation (EU) 1998/2020.

  1. Can sanctions imposed under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime have unintended consequences for the civilian population?

All EU sanctions are targeted to minimise risks of unintended consequences on the general population. The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (EUGHRSR) only includes individual measures (a travel ban, an asset freeze and a prohibition to make funds and economic resources available), which only apply to the perpetrators listed. These sanctions, as all EU sanctions, should not impede the supply of humanitarian aid, including medical assistance. Specific exceptions for humanitarian purposes are foreseen.

In particular, these individual measures include all usual standard exceptions, e.g. the satisfaction of basic needs of designated persons and their dependent family members, including payments for foodstuffs, medicines and medical treatment[4].

In addition, the EUGHRSR includes a dedicated so-called humanitarian derogation. Derogations mean that a restricted (prohibited) action can be carried out after a Member States’ national competent authority[5] has granted an authorisation.

Concretely, the derogation allows Member States to grant an authorisation to humanitarian operators. As a result, certain frozen funds or economic resources can be released, or certain funds or economic resources can be made available, if this is needed for humanitarian purposes, such as delivering or facilitating the delivery of assistance, including medical supplies, food, or the transfer of humanitarian workers and related assistance or for evacuations[6].

For more details on the implementation of these provisions, please also consult the Commission guidance note on the implementation of certain provisions of Regulation (EU) 1998/2020.

  1. Who can propose sanctions under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime?

In line with Art. 5 of the Council Decision[7], the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and EU Member States can put forward proposals for listings. It is then for the Council to decide on those listings.

 

[1] For details see also Art. 1 of Council Decision (CFSP) 2020/1999 concerning restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses.

[2] For details of listed individuals and entities see Annex I of Council Regulation (EU) 1998/2020 concerning restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses.

[3] For details of national competent authorities see Annex II of Council Regulation (EU) 1998/2020 concerning restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses.

[4] For details see also Arts. 2 and 3 of Council Decision (CFSP) 2020/1999 concerning restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses.

[5] For details of national competent authorities see Annex II of Council Regulation (EU) 1998/2020 concerning restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses.

[6] For details see also Art. 4 of Council Decision (CFSP) 2020/1999 concerning restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses.

[7] For details see also Art. 5 of Council Decision (CFSP) 2020/1999 concerning restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses.

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