Show an ad over header. AMP

The European Union may soon get its own Magnitsky Act to target human rights abusers

Amid a global assaulton human rights stretching from Belarus to Hong Kong to Yemen, the European Union signaled yesterday that it may act to deter corrupt kleptocrats and state abusers by hitting them where it hurts: their assets.

Driving the news: Europe's chief executive Ursula von der Leyen revealed in her first-ever State of the Union speech that she will bring forth a European Magnitsky Act, a sanctions framework modeled after a U.S. law that restricts malign actors' access to travel and the global financial system.


Why it matters: For all the ridicule it’s earned as a bureaucracy-addled bloc with a penchant for "strongly worded" statements, the EU is still the world’s largest single market area and a leading promoter of democratic values.

The big picture: Getting the EU on board would be a major victory for Bill Browder, an investor and activist who has spent the past 10 years lobbying world governments to pass sanctions legislation in the name of his late tax adviser, Sergei Magnitsky.

  • Browder's Hermitage Capital was once the largest foreign investor in Russia, where his broadsides against corporate corruption made him a thorn in the side of the oligarchs.
  • His visa was revoked in 2005 and his offices were later raided by Russian authorities as part of an apparent tax fraud investigation. Browder commissioned Magnitsky, then a 35-year-old lawyer, to figure out what happened.
  • Magnitsky went on to uncover a massive fraud scheme allegedly involving Russian officials. His testimony against the Russian state resulted in his 11-month detention, torture and eventual death in prison in 2009.

Browder's decade-long anti-corruption campaign in the wake of Magnitsky's death yielded new sanctions frameworks in the U.S. (2012 and expanded in 2016), Canada (2015), the Baltic states (2016–2018), the U.K. (2018) and Kosovo (2020). He is likely the most wanted man in Russia.

What they're saying: Browder has called a European Magnitsky Act "probably the most devastating thing that could happen to the Putin regime" given the property and assets that key players own in Europe.

  • He told me the legislation "has been held up for almost a decade by various member states and politicians who wanted to either please or appease Putin."
  • But after the poisoning last month of fellow Putin critic Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent known to be a calling card of the Russian security services, Browder says those people have "disappeared into the woodwork."
  • Note: Navalny is awake in a German hospital and posting on Instagram after two weeks in a medically induced coma. He plans to return to Russia.

Yes, but: Some experts warn that money laundering loopholes in the international financial system render Magnitsky laws ineffective, especially in the U.K. And questions still remain about the EU's willingness to stand up to China, the world's second-largest economy and one of its worst human rights abusers.

Between the lines: If the EU does move forward with an assets-focused sanctions law, Browder tells me the first targets should be the people who killed Magnitsky — followed swiftly by the perpetrators of the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, the operators of mass detention camps in Xinjiang, and the authorities cracking down on protests in Hong Kong and Belarus.

What to watch: The EU's chief diplomat has called for the sanctions law to be named the "Navalny Act."

Bond investors see brighter days

U.S. government bonds could breakout further after yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note ticked up to their highest since early June last week.

But, but, but: Strategists say this move is about an improving outlook for economic growth rather than just inflation.

Keep reading... Show less

The dangerous instability of school re-openings

Schools across the country have flip-flopped between in-person and remote learning — and that instability is taking a toll on students' ability to learn and their mental health.

The big picture: While companies were able to set long timelines for their return, schools — under immense political and social strain — had to rush to figure out how to reopen. The cobbled-together approach has hurt students, parents and teachers alike.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump doesn't have a second-term economic plan

President Trump has not laid out an economic agenda for his second term, despite the election being just eight days away.

Why it matters: This is unprecedented in modern presidential campaigns, and makes it harder for undecided voters to make an informed choice.

Keep reading... Show less

How Trump’s energy endgame could go

Expect President Trump to redouble his efforts loosening regulations and questioning climate-change science should he win reelection next month.

Driving the news: A second Trump administration would supercharge efforts by certain states, countries and companies to address global warming. But some wildcards could have a greener tinge.

Keep reading... Show less

The swing states where the pandemic is raging

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, The Cook Political Report; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Several states that are likely to decide which party controls Washington next year have exceptionally large coronavirus outbreaks or are seeing cases spike.

Why it matters: Most voters have already made up their minds. But for those few holdouts, the state of the pandemic could ultimately help them make a decision as they head to the polls — and that's not likely to help President Trump.

Keep reading... Show less

Tropical Storm Zeta may strengthen into hurricane before reaching U.S.

The U.S. Gulf Coast and Mexico are bracing for another possible hurricane after Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the Caribbean Sea Sunday.

Of note: Zeta is the 27th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season — equaling a record set in 2005.

Keep reading... Show less

Rockefeller Foundation commits $1 billion for COVID-19 recovery

The Rockefeller Foundation announced on Monday that it will allocate $1 billion over the next three years to address the pandemic and its aftermath.

Why it matters: The mishandled pandemic and the effects of climate change threaten to reverse global progress and push more than 100 million people into poverty around the world. Governments and big NGOs need to ensure that the COVID-19 recovery reaches everyone who needs it.

Keep reading... Show less

How Amy Coney Barrett will make an immediate impact on the Supreme Court

In her first week on the job,Amy Coney Barrett may be deciding which votes to count in the presidential election. By her third week, she’ll be deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Where it stands: The Senate votes on Barrett’s nomination tomorrow. If she’s confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to swear her in at the Supreme Court within hours, an administration official tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories