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EU agrees its own 'Magnitsky' regime to sanction human rights abuses

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By Efi Koutsokosta
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EU agrees its own 'Magnitsky' regime to sanction human rights abuses
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The European Union has agreed to establish a regime similar to the Magnitsky Act in America that will allow the 27 member bloc to sanction those responsible for human rights abuses.

The decision came at a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday and will allow the EU to freeze assets and impose travel bans on individuals involved in serious human rights abuses.

The new measures will allow for travel bans on involved individuals and the freezing of their funds too. It could also be forbidden from making funds available to those being sanctioned.

The EU's chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, tweets about the European Magnitsky Act

A European Magnitsky Act, as it's known, is named after Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian jail after uncovering a huge fraud scheme allegedly involving government officials.

Bill Browder, who helped Magnisky discover these fraudulent acts, told Euronews this is an historic step for Europe, but not the perfect one.

"This unanimity rule is a real problem. Another problem with the EU Magnitsky Act is that it doesn't include kleptocracy, it only includes human rights abuse. And what we found is that kleptocracy and human rights abuse go hand in hand, they are intertwined. Of course, we are celebrating today because this is a huge milestone but tomorrow the work begins to put pressure on sanctioning bad actors in countries like Russia and China and to make sure that the law that the EU has, is upgraded to include corruption," Browder said.

The criteria for sanctions will apply to acts such as genocide, crimes against humanity, as well as. torture, slavery, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, or detentions.

It will then be up to the European Council, which consists of all 27 national governments, to act upon a proposal from a member state or from the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to establish, review and amend the sanctions list.

Foreign ministers also discussed action against Turkey, ahead of Thursday's crunch leaders' summit, that could see Ankara punished for its provocative moves in the East Mediterranean and Northern Cyprus in recent months.

"We have not seen a fundamental change of direction on Turkish behaviour. On the contrary, the situation in several aspects has worsened. The seismic survey in the region is still going on. So, the evaluation of the foreign affairs ministers is not a positive one," Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative told reporters Monday.

Venezuela was on the menu too, with ministers questioning the credibility of last weekend's elections and also calling on the country's leaders to urgently come together to find a political solution to end the current impasse.