The Global Judges (II)

EU adopts new sanctions regime - allegedly to punish human rights violators. In reality as an instrument in the global power struggle.

BRUSSELS/BERLIN |

BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Own report) - With its new sanctions regime, the EU is posing as a global judge and avenger of factual or alleged human rights violations. A relevant sanctions law, largely modeled after the US American "Global Magnitsky Act" was passed yesterday by the foreign ministers of the EU. It entitles the Union to freeze the assets and block the visas of citizens of foreign countries, accused of serious human rights violations. Politically, this is only aimed at representatives of non-allied states. Those in the West, who are responsible for torture or state sanctioned murder, need not fear any consequences. Most recently, Kosovo, whose elites have been accused for years, of the most severe human rights violations, has passed a "Magnitsky Act" sanctioning factual or alleged culprits abroad. Already last year, an EU diplomat was quoted saying that the aim is to show that "we have muscles." It is designed to serve as an instrument in the global power struggle.

Foxes guarding the Chicken Coup (I)

The EU's new sanctions regime, passed by the EU foreign ministers yesterday, is modeled along the lines of two US laws, the "Magnitsky Act" (2012) and the "Global Magnitsky Act" (2016). The "Magnitsky Act," signed into law by US President Barack Obama on December 14, 2012, targets Russian citizens accused by Washington of human rights abuse, refusing them entry into the United States and freezing their assets on US territory. The "Global Magnitsky Act," signed by Obama on December 23, 2016, extends the punitive measures provided for in the Magnitsky Act to persons from anywhere in the world. With this law, Washington is positioning itself as a global judge in human rights questions. This is remarkable, considering the numerous human rights violations committed by the USA - from the global renditions to torture camps of terrorist suspects since the fall of 2001, to the various war crimes US troops committed, for example in Iraq, for whose public disclosure WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, is now being persecuted by the US justice system,[1] to the January 3, 2019 assassination by drone of the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport.[2] The list could be significantly prolonged.

Foxes guarding the Chicken Coup (II)

Meanwhile, several other states have introduced Magnitsky Acts including those of three Baltic countries. Two of them, Estonia and Latvia, are still denying citizenship to a large number of permanent residents because they have Russian ancestry. According to experts, around seven percent of the total population in Estonia and 14 percent in Latvia are stateless persons.[3] Both countries, which are denying fundamental civil rights to hundreds of thousands of their inhabitants, are posing as guardians of human rights world-wide with their national versions of the Magnitsky Act. The same applies to the Kosovo authorities, who, in violation of international law, had seceded from Serbia. A sector of Kosovo's elite, including several of its presidents and prime ministers, are accused of having committed the most egregious war crimes and human rights violations.[4] Nevertheless, the Kosovo authorities also passed a version of the Magnitsky Act on January 29, 2020.[5] Alongside Canada and Great Britain, Australia is now also considering such a step. The country is currently shocked by reports of the most serious war crimes - including at least 39 murders of defenseless civilians - committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.[6]

Promoted by Berlin

Plans for an EU version of the Magnitsky Act have been in discussion for years. On March 14, 2019, the EU Parliament - in a resolution that passed with 447 votes in favor against 70 against - had explicitly called for the introduction of a "European Magnitzky Act."[7] On December 9, 2019, the foreign ministers of the EU agreed to launch concrete preparations for such a law. The EU External Action Service (EAS) was commissioned to make the necessary preparations. The German government has been particularly active in promoting EU's own sanctions law. Already in November 2019 the State Secretary of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andreas Michaelis, announced that during its term as EU Council President, Berlin intended to "further develop" the "implementation of a pan-EU mechanism for human rights sanctions."[8] The program for Germany's EU Council Presidency states that "the expansion of the EU's capacity to impose and implement sanctions" will be promoted. In fact, in late November, a law was formulated that the ambassadors of the EU's member countries explicitly approved. Yesterday, Monday, the law ultimately was passed by the foreign ministers of the EU.

"A Broad Interpretation"

Formally, the EU's sanctions law is primarily aimed at serious human rights violations such as genocide, torture, slavery, state sanctioned murders ("extrajudicial killings") and arbitrary arrests. Sanctions are also foreseen for cases of "systematic and extensive violations," as in cases of human smuggling, sexual violence and violations of the rights of assembly, freedom of expression and religion. "This means that a broad interpretation has been accepted."[9] Like its predecessors, the new sanctions law entitles the Union to freeze the assets within its borders of the accused and to deny them entry into the EU. Yesterday, referring to this law, Foreign Minister Maas was quoted saying that those responsible for torture or refusing to investigate human rights violations will "no longer be permitted to go shopping in Europe carefree."[10] However, contrary to the impression left by Maas, actually not the crimes will determine whether sanctions will be applied, but rather political opportunity. For example, no member of Germany's former SPD-Green coalition government will have to worry about being sanctioned for their human rights violations during the aftermath of September 11, 2001, even though at least some members of the government were responsible for German collaboration in the CIA's renditions of suspects to torture chambers.[11] Current CIA Director, Gina Haspel, who was the commander in 2002 of a CIA torture chamber in Thailand, is as little worried about being brought to justice as the assassins of Iran's nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

"Show Muscles"

The sanctions, however, will be applied against political adversaries. At the end of last year, an EU diplomat was quoted with the statement the sanctions regime will serve to show that “we have muscles."[12] Currently, the first sanctions in discussion are aimed at citizens of Turkey and China. Sanctions against Turkey are primarily being promoted by France, which - alongside Greece and Cyprus - is most seriously involved in a conflict with Ankara. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[13]) Yesterday, Foreign Minister Maas hinted that - after lengthy reluctance - Berlin could agree to sanctions against Turkey. There have been "much too many provocations" coming from Ankara, is the reason given.[14] What political "provocations" have to do with serious violations of human rights - the theoretical grounds for applying the new sanctions - remains a riddle. Besides, transatlantic hardliners are seeking to foment new disputes between the EU and China, to force Berlin and Brussels as close as possible to Washington's side in the great power rivalry between the United States and the People's Republic. Coercive measures against the Chinese could be argued on the basis of "orgies of repression" in Hong Kong and the detention of Uighurs in camps in Xinjiang, according to a quote last week from MEP Reinhard Butikofer (Greens).[15] Butikofer is seen as an anti-Beijing rabble-rouser.[16]

 

[1] See also The New Strategy toward Russia.

[2] See also An Assassination and its Consequences.

[3] Ada-Charlotte Regelmann: Minderheitenintegration in den baltischen Staaten. Eine Frage der Sprache? bpb.de 17.02.2017.

[4] See also Kriegsverbrechen im Kosovo.

[5] Xhorxhina Bami: Outgoing Kosovo Govt Adopts Magnitsky Act. balkaninsight.com 29.01.2020.

[6] See also Bilanz von 18 Jahren.

[7] See also The Global Judges.

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

[9] Thomas Gutschker: Neues Sanktionsregime. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05.12.2020.

[10] Bernd Riegert: EU ahndet Menschenrechtsverstöße weltweit. dw.com 07.12.2020.

[11] See also 17 Years "War on Terror".

[12] Jacopo Barigazzi: EU to prepare Magnitsky-style human rights sanctions regime. politico.eu 09.12.2019.

[13] See also Dispute Over Policy Towards Turkey.

[14] "Viel zu viele Provokationen" - EU prüft Sanktionen gegen die Türkei. welt.de 07.12.2020.

[15] Matthias Kolb: "Starke Botschaft" für die Menschenrechte. sueddeutsche.de 03.12.2020.

[16] See also The Green Cold War.