The Magnitsky Act and its name – Op-Ed in EUObserver

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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.

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.

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.


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