In May 2017, the Canadian Government announced that it would recommend the adoption of a Magnitsky style law that would impose sanctions on those individuals and entities responsible for massive human rights violations. Unsurprisingly, the move has not been welcomed by Moscow.
The recommendation is part of Canada’s review on it’s sanctions laws; a link to a parliamentary report on the issue can be found here.
The move signals yet again, the wish of countries to increasingly attach the imposition of sanctions to address massive human rights violations.
The move should be welcomed, human rights violators ill gained wealth should be the target of sanctions. Why not, one would say.
Question is whether the violation of human rights, especially those which perpetuate corruption and bad governance should be a tool of sanctions. Although there is no doubt that human rights violations and corruption can be an issue of national security, incorporating such issues into the field of economic sanctions, the question is whether this stretches the ability of governments to adequately address the issue of human rights violations.
In my opinion, the imposition of sanctions will not achieve the object of remedying human rights violations. However, these types of sanctions are and remain an important signal that human rights violations (and corruption) should never be tolerated. I fear though, that without concerted international cooperation, the politicization of human rights violations will undoubtedly creep into the efforts to curb the evil of such violations and corruption. For instance, will the UN Security Council ever be in a position to adopt Magnitsky style sanctions? Moreover, I’m still waiting that the EU adopts a comprehensive Magnitsky style sanctions regime.
Finally, from a compliance perspective, it will be interesting to see how private companies will be able to assess whether they comply with Magnitsky style sanctions. Apart from not doing business with blacklisted human rights violators, the question is whether companies will be able determine if they are doing business with entities/individuals who have violated human rights.
In practice, this will not be so easy; for instance, goods that might erode the environment (although are licensed by appropriate governmental authorities) or business partners that structurally pay their women employees less than their male counterparts for the same job (violation of social-economic rights).
I welcome this development, but I also hope that governments will give us sufficient guidance to comply with the very important issue to curb human rights violations.