From the Torture Chambers of the Economic War (II)

Berlin plans to initiate a US-modeled sanctions regime during its EU Council Presidency.

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Own report) - The German government is pushing for the introduction of a new global sanctions regime patterned on US coercive measures. The government announces in its working program for the EU Council Presidency that in the course of the next six months, it would like "to expand the EU’s capacity to impose and implement sanctions." Already last year, the EU foreign ministers initiated work on an EU sanctions regime, officially to punish human rights violations. It is targeting officials from rival countries, while sparing human rights abusers of its allies. Like its US sanctions regime model, it will serve as an instrument in the global power struggle. It complements the already rampant EU sanctions regime directed at Russia, Syria and Venezuela and is in part responsible for the severe supply shortages in some of these targeted countries. Over the past few weeks, the EU - ignoring UN protests - has expanded and extended various sanctions despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sanctions against Russia

Over the past few weeks, the EU has extended and partially expanded a whole series of coercive measures, relating, for example, to the sanctions regime aimed at Russia. On June 29, some of the economic sanctions were extended, banning the export of so-called dual-use goods that can also be used for military purposes, but particularly technologies and services that can be used for oil production and exploration. Access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for certain Russian banks and companies will remain limited. EU sanctions targeting Crimea were already extended on June 18. The import ban on goods from Crimea was extended, as well as the export ban for certain goods and technologies; restrictions on investments remain in force, as well as, the prohibition to supply tourism services.[1] The same applies to an asset freeze and a travel ban on 175 people and 44 institutions and enterprises, accused of "undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence." In many cases, this, of course, also affects persons, institutions, and enterprises from eastern Ukraine.

"Scorched Earth Policy"

The EU has also expanded the February 17 sanctions against Syria and extended them on May 28. Currently, 273 persons are targeted by both an assets freeze and a travel ban, and 70 institutions and enterprises are subjected to an assets freeze in the EU, particularly "companies and business people benefiting from their ties to the regime and the war economy," the EU explains.[2] Restrictive measures against Syria also include a "ban on the import of oil, restrictions on certain investments, a freeze of the assets of the Syrian central bank held in the EU, and export restrictions on equipment and technology that might be used for internal repression." EU sanctions against Syria - like those against Russia - complement the much more extensive US sanctions, which are currently even being tightened. ( reported.[3]) The sanctions are being legitimized by targeting the alleged brutal repression of Syrian citizens. In reality, however, they aggravate dramatically the situation of the population, severely thwarting, for example, the supply of medicine. Already in February 2019, the European Council on Foreign Relations noted that Western sanctions "reveal a scorched earth policy that indiscriminately and arbitrarily punishes ordinary Syrians and threatens legitimate businesses."[4]

In Spite of UN Protest

The EU recently expanded its sanctions against Venezuela. On June 29, the EU Council added eleven Venezuelans to its country-specific list of sanctions, banning them also from entry into the Union, as well as freezing their assets within the EU. Mainly high-ranking politicians, jurists, and military personnel are among those affected by these coercive measures. The EU measures accompany the significantly more far-reaching US restrictions, also in the case of Venezuela. The impact on the population is catastrophic. Back in April 2019, a scholarly study concluded that the sanctions imposed since 2017 - EU sanctions also came into effect in 2017 - had caused more than 40,000 deaths.[5] Former US top diplomat Thomas Shannon passed judgment on the sanctions policy: "We are seeing the destruction of Venezuela as a country and a society." With reference to the Covid-19 pandemic, UN Secretary General António Guterres urged that all economic coercive measures on third countries be lifted, to ensure "access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support." "This is the time for solidarity not exclusion."[6] The EU, as mentioned, has expanded its sanctions.

The European Magnitsky Act

Germany is pushing for supplementing the EU's current sanctions policies with a new sanctions regime. It should target anyone, anywhere in the world, accused of violating human rights. It is modeled after two US laws - the Magnitsky Act (2012) and the Global Magnitsky Act (2016) - which provide for freezing assets and imposing entry bans on de facto or alleged human rights violators. The laws have been named after the Russian auditor Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 in a Russian jail. The enactment of a European Magnitsky Act was proposed in an EU parliamentary resolution on March 14 last year. On December 9, the EU foreign ministers commissioned the responsibility for initiating the elaboration of a concrete law to the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.[7] The German government is also strongly promoting this effort. Back in November 2019, Andreas Michaelis, State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced that during its "2020 EU Council presidency" Berlin intends to "further advance the implementation of the pan-EU human rights sanctions regime."[8] In fact, in the program of the German council presidency, it does state, Berlin is "committed to expanding the EU's capacity for imposing and implementing sanctions."

Torture with No Consequences

The debate about who should be sanctioned, demonstrates that, contrary to all claims to the contrary, the planned European Magnitzsky Act will not be aimed at enforcing human rights, but rather at fighting global rivals. People from Russia, China, Belarus, or Venezuela - all countries standing in conflict with the EU - are the names being listed. Not mentioned is the USA, even though - within the framework of the "War on Terror" - the CIA's current Director, Gina Haspel had headed a torture facility in Thailand in 2002. There are no plans to impose sanctions on Haspel, nor other coercive measures on US officials responsible for the 2003 invasion of Iraq in violation of international law, nor against French and British officials responsible for the 2011 war on Libya, in violation of international law. Neither Polish nor Rumanian officials will have to worry about being subjected to Magnitzsky sanctions for having allowed the CIA to maintain torture chambers for years on their territories in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The same applies to German officials - including Germany's current President [9] - who had either collaborated with US officials or organized this collaboration for the abduction and torture of terrorism suspects during the "war on terror." They are not being targeted by the planned sanctions.


For more information on the theme of sanctions see: From the Torture Chambers of the Economic War.


[1] EU restrictive measures in response to the crisis in Ukraine.

[2] Syria: Sanctions against the regime extended by one year. 28.05.2020.

[3] See also Hoffen auf die Hungerrevolte.

[4] Nour Samaha: The economic war on Syria: Why Europe risks losing. 11.02.2019. See also The War after the War.

[5] Mark Weisbrot, Jeffrey Sachs: Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela. Center for Economic and Policy Research. Washington, April 2019. See also Die Ära der Sanktionskriege (IV).

[6] Funding the fight against COVID-19 in the world’s poorest countries. 25.03.2020. See also Die Pandemie als Druckmittel.

[7] Alexandra Brzozowski: EU ministers break ground on European 'Magnitsky Act'. 10.12.2019. See also The Global Judges.

[8] Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksache 19/15365. Berlin, 22.11.2019.

[9] See also A President's Policy.