European global human rights sanctions regime: the council of the European Union sanctions four people responsible for serious human rights violations in Russia

On March 2, 2021, the Council of the European Union decided for the first time to impose restrictive measures on four Russian individuals responsible for serious human rights violations, pursuant to Council Regulation (EU) 2020/1998 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2020/1999, both of December 7, 2020, concerning restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses (the official texts of the Regulation and the Decision are accessible here and here).

This is the first time that the European Union has imposed sanctions in the framework of the new European Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (comprising Council Regulation 2020/1998 and Council Decision 2020/1999), which enables the European Union to target those responsible for acts such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and other serious human rights violations or abuses, such as torture, slavery, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and detention. Thus, the European Union has equipped itself with a legal framework that allows it to target individuals, entities, and bodies – including State and non-State actors – responsible for, involved in, or associated with serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide.

By way of Council Decision (CFSP) 2021/372 of March 2, 2021 (the official text is accessible here), Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, the prosecutor-general, Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard, and Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the federal prison service, were added to the list of natural persons set out in section A (“Natural persons”) within Annex to Decision (CFSP) 2020/1999. This was due to their roles in the arbitrary arrest, prosecution, and sentencing of Alexei Navalny, as well as the repression of peaceful protests in connection with his unlawful treatment (among others, arbitrary arrests and detention, as well as widespread and systematic repression of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and freedom of opinion and expression in Russia).

The restrictive measures that entered into force with Decision 2021/372 consist of a travel ban and asset freeze. In addition, persons and entities in the European Union are forbidden from making funds available to those listed, either directly or indirectly. The imposition of such restrictive measures stood as follow-up to discussions by the Foreign Affairs Council on February 22, 2021 (accessible here).

In response to Navalny’s poisoning and sentencing, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Treasury Department added seven Russian officials to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. This means that U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with the designated Russian officials and all their property and interests in property that come into the possession of U.S. persons are blocked, as are any entities 50 percent or more owned by the same officials (press release available here).

For more information on the new European Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, see our previous article available here.

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