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While Donald Trump has come out in support of the Saudi regime, several European nations are taking action to hold the murderers of Jamal Khashoggi accountable. On Monday, November 19, the German government issued a travel ban on the 18 Saudis implicated in the murder and halted previously approved arms exports to Saudi Arabia, Deutsche Welle reported. The decision was made in close consultation with France and Great Britain.

The Khashoggi murder may even result in the adoption of a European Magnitsky Act, modeled after the U.S. law that President Trump apparently does not want to invoke out of fear of confronting the Saudi government. The Global Magnitsky Act (2016) is a law that allows the U.S. Executive branch to impose visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals anywhere in the world, who are responsible for committing human rights abuses or engaging in widespread corruption. The law is named after the Russian accountant and lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who was found dead in his Moscow jail cell after having been tortured and denied medical treatment. Magnitsky had discovered a massive tax fraud scheme, involving high-level Russian government officials. After his death, Congress passed a bill, which imposed sanctions on Russian officials implicated in serious human rights violations, froze the U.S. assets they held, and banned them from entering the United States.

In the last two years, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Lithuania and Latvia have followed the U.S. example and adopted Magnitsky bills. There have been preliminary discussions about the EU adopting its own Magnitsky Act, which would be binding on all its 28 member states. In April,  the Dutch parliament adopted a resolution calling for an effective human rights sanction regime at the EU level. In fact, a group of Dutch MPs, together with the European Stability Initiative and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, have put together a concrete proposal to establish a European Human Rights Entry Ban Commission.

This independent commission would create an annual list of human rights offenders, based on submissions by NGOs and other institutions, and recommend entry bans and other possible sanctions to the EU Council and individual European states. Such a mechanism would help overcome required EU unanimity for sanctions. The publicity around the list would reduce the likelihood of vetoes by individual EU members. Having an independent European Human Rights Entry Ban Commission would also make it much harder to put diplomatic pressure on individual states. In case individual countries do veto, however, this would ensure that even more attention would be paid to these cases.

Those behind the proposed commission, which has the backing of the Dutch government, aim to have it up and running by October 2019. What better way to honor the legacy of journalists and whistle blowers like Jamal Khashoggi and Sergei Magnitsky than to hold the autocrats of the world accountable for gross human rights violations.

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