By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS, Dec 2 (Reuters) – EU envoys agreed on Wednesday on a new mechanism to punish human rights abuses around the world by targeting people regardless of their nationality or their location, two diplomats said.
Pushed by the Netherlands, as well as the United States, the European Union will now be able to freeze assets of those deemed responsible, similar to the Magnitsky Act of 2012 in the United States, highlighting abuses that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer arrested in 2008 after alleging that Russian officials were involved in large-scale tax fraud. Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after complaining of mistreatment.
The new sanctions regime, which EU foreign ministers will formally approve on Monday, will allow the European Union to impose sanctions quickly on specific individuals anywhere in the world, freezing their assets in the bloc and banning them from entry.
The new regime will not replace existing sanctions regimes, some of which already address human rights violations and abuses in Syria, Belarus and Venezuela, but gives the European Union a new tool to coordinate any punitive measures on rights with Washington.
The EU also hopes the regime will strengthen its fight to uphold human rights in countries such as China, Russia, Iran, Myanmar and Saudi Arabia, where EU governments say abuses must be punished.
The new human rights regime follows the establishment of two similar EU mechanisms – targeting the use of chemical weapons and attacks on computer networks – that have been set up in the past few years.
It was not immediately clear how widely the regime will be used by EU governments, which must propose names. No names are expected to be added immediately on Monday, diplomats said.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Nick Macfie)