Human rights: MEPs want to extend the EU sanctions regime to cover corruption

On Tuesday, the Foreign Affairs Committee adopt­ed a res­o­lu­tion wel­com­ing the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime while call­ing for cor­rup­tion to be includ­ed as a pun­ish­able offense.

Corruption has a dev­as­tat­ing impact on the state of human rights, and often under­mines the func­tion­ing and legit­i­ma­cy of insti­tu­tions and the rule of law, the res­o­lu­tion states. But unlike sim­i­lar schemes around the world, such as the US Global Magnitsky Act, the cur­rent EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (GHRSR), adopt­ed in December 2020, does not include cor­rup­tion in con­nec­tion with human rights vio­la­tions as an offense pun­ish­able by restric­tive mea­sures. Therefore, MEPs urge the European Commission to come for­ward with a leg­isla­tive pro­pos­al that extends the scope of the GHRSR to cov­er these crimes.

MEPs should also be able to pro­pose cas­es of seri­ous human rights vio­la­tions, in order to increase the legit­i­ma­cy of the sanc­tions regime. In addi­tion, Members insist on an inclu­sive sanc­tions process to facil­i­tate input from civ­il society.

You can read more about the new frame­work here.

Qualified major­i­ty vot­ing should also be intro­duced when sanc­tions are adopt­ed under the scope of the GHRSR, the text urges, as this would imple­ment the regime more effectively.

Counter-sanc­tions aim to deter the EU from defend­ing human rights

In addi­tion, MEPs con­demn any counter-sanc­tions imposed on the EU, its insti­tu­tions and Members of Parliament, bod­ies or cit­i­zens, sole­ly for uphold­ing human rights, democ­ra­cy and the rule of law through the GHRSR. They recall that these retal­ia­to­ry mea­sures aim to deter the EU from pur­su­ing its glob­al actions to pro­tect human rights in line with its treaty obligations.

Members fur­ther under­line the need for a swift and coor­di­nat­ed EU response to such retal­ia­to­ry sanc­tions by third coun­tries and to ensure that bilat­er­al agree­ments with these coun­tries do not under­mine the EU’s sanc­tions frame­work and its cred­i­bil­i­ty in for­eign pol­i­cy in general.

The text was adopt­ed by 58 votes in favour, 8 against with 3 abstentions.


The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime adds a direct and tan­gi­ble way to respond to seri­ous human rights vio­la­tions and hold those respon­si­ble for abuse account­able. It needs to become an essen­tial ele­ment of the EU’s broad­er strat­e­gy on human rights and a fun­da­men­tal part of our exter­nal pol­i­cy tool­box. I wel­come the swift imple­men­ta­tion of the new instru­ment and hope that it will sup­port the objec­tives of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy”, said David McAllister (EPP, Germany), Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

One of the European Parliament’s long­stand­ing demands, the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime strength­ens the EU’s lead­ing role in human rights by allow­ing us to tar­get per­sons and enti­ties who are respon­si­ble for grave human rights vio­la­tions, wher­ev­er these abus­es take place. We are pleased that the Council has put the regime swift­ly into use, but would also ask for some improve­ments. The regime needs to also tar­get eco­nom­ic and finan­cial enablers of human rights abusers, and we need a stronger role both for the European Parliament and civ­il soci­ety, to increase its legit­i­ma­cy”, said Maria Arena (S&D, Belgium), Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights.