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EU approves Magnitsky sanctions on Human Rights violators in China, DPRK, Libya, Russia, South Sudan and Eritrea

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The Council today (22 March) decided to impose restrictive measures on 11 individuals and four entities responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses in various countries around the world. 

This is the second time the EU has made use of its new human-rights sanction regime established on 7 December 2020. The first time was the listing of four Russian individuals linked to the protests and arrest of Alexander Navalny.

The violations targeted today include the large-scale arbitrary detentions of, in particular, Uyghurs in Xinjiang in China, repression in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Libya, torture and repression against LGBTI persons and political opponents in Chechnya in Russia, and torture, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings in South Sudan and Eritrea.

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Under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime the listed individuals and entities are subject to an asset freeze in the EU. In addition, listed individuals are subject to a travel ban to the EU and EU persons and entities are prohibited from making funds available, either directly or indirectly, to those listed.

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Myanmar

Human rights breaches in Myanmar and Rwanda

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The European Parliament has adopted two resolutions on the human rights situations in Myanmar and Rwanda, PLENARY SESSION AFETDROI.

The human rights situation in Myanmar, including the situation of religious and ethnic groups

Parliament condemns the Burmese military’s (Tatmadaw) widespread violent response to any kind of protest and the gross human rights violations it continues to commit against the people of Myanmar, following the coup d’état of 1 February this year. MEPs say these ongoing abuses and actions amount to crimes against humanity.

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They also specifically denounce the targeting of ethnic and religious minorities in the country, with frequent attacks on churches, mosques, schools and medical facilities, and the arrest of religious leaders.

In addition, MEPs are appalled by the attacks, harassment, detention and torture of healthcare workers in Myanmar and express fears over how the humanitarian crisis has been exacerbated by a third wave of COVID-19 in the country.

The resolution calls for the immediate and unconditional release of President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and all others arrested by the Tatmadaw on unfounded accusations during and after the coup.

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It finally urges EU countries, through the Council, to continue imposing targeted and robust EU sanctions, with the aim of cutting off the economic lifelines of the Burmese junta, as well as demanding member states push ahead with targeted restrictive measures against those responsible for the coup.

The text was adopted by 647 votes in favour, 2 against and 31 abstentions. For further details, the full version is available here.

The case of Paul Rusesabagina in Rwanda

MEPs strongly condemn the illegal arrest, detention and conviction of human rights defender Paul Rusesabagina in Rwanda, which they say violates international and Rwandan law.

Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and US resident whose story was recounted in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Rwandan court on 29 September. He was declared guilty of nine terrorism-related charges, and made criminally liable for activities attributed to the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change / National Liberation Front (MRCD-FLN), a coalition of opposition political parties and its military wing.

Parliament considers the case of Rusesabagina to exemplify the human rights violations taking place in Rwanda, with MEPs calling into question the fairness of the verdict and demanding his immediate release on humanitarian grounds.

The Rwandan government, MEPs demand, has to guarantee the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr Rusesabagina and to allow him to take the medication he needs. The Rwandan government must respect the right of the Belgian government to provide consular assistance to Rusesabagina in order to ensure his health and his access to a proper defence.

The text was adopted by 660 votes in favour, 2 against and 18 abstentions. It will be available in full here (07.10.2021).

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EU allocates an additional €9 million to support the most vulnerable in Myanmar following the coup d'état

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The EU has stepped up its response to assist those in need in Myanmar in the context of the recent military coup, with the allocation of an additional €9 million in emergency humanitarian aid to support the most vulnerable. The critical reinforcement of the EU's response comes on top of a funding package of €11.5m provided at the start of 2021, to support key humanitarian and disaster preparedness needs in the country, bringing EU humanitarian assistance in Myanmar to a total of €20.5m in 2021 so far.

Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said: "The violent military junta that has overthrown the legitimate government in Myanmar has been merciless in killing innocent civilians, in egregious violations of International Humanitarian Law that exacerbates the already dire humanitarian crisis faced by displaced and conflict-affected populations. The EU condemns the despicable acts of violence by the coup d'état, and meanwhile reaffirms its will to continue providing strong humanitarian support through its humanitarian partners directly to the most vulnerable population, who also face recurrent natural hazards that further increase their needs. At this this crucial and pressing time, the EU is showing up for the people of Myanmar by significantly stepping up its support in humanitarian assistance.”

The funding will be used to respond to urgent humanitarian needs in the sectors of emergency health support, protection, food security, and multi-sector emergency assistance. Through this additional allocation, the EU is stepping up its response capacities in the conflict areas in which it is active, and also in urban settings, where indiscriminate violence has been used by the Myanmar security forces. The additional funding will also provide humanitarian assistance to those fleeing fighting between Ethnic Armed Groups and the Myanmar Armed Forces, with funds allocated to address the growing regional implications of the crisis, including in Thailand. All EU humanitarian funding is provided in line with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, and is channelled directly through NGOs, UN Agencies, and the Red Cross. The EU does not provide any humanitarian aid funding to the illegitimate military authorities.

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Background

Conflict in Myanmar is marred by widespread violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting in substantial humanitarian needs. More than 336,000 people in Myanmar have been internally displaced, a large majority of whom are in situations of protracted displacement in Rakhine, Kachin, Kayin and Shan states, with limited access to basic services. An estimated 600,000 Rohingya people remain in Rakhine State, of whom around 126,000 are effectively confined to camps or camp-like settings that were established in 2012, and so still cannot move freely. Restricted humanitarian access to several areas hampers the ability of international aid organisations to provide crucial assistance to people in need. Recurrent natural hazards also increase the vulnerability of people living in disaster-prone areas.

Since 1994, the EU has provided €287m in humanitarian aid to Myanmar, with €19m allocated in 2020. The EU works with trusted and independent humanitarian partners to address the protection, food, nutrition and health needs of the most vulnerable people, particularly in Rakhine, Chin, Kachin and Shan states. Following the violence in August 2017, the EU has stepped up its humanitarian assistance in the form of food, nutritional care, health care, water and sanitation, co-ordination, and protection, including mine education. Humanitarian needs are increasing as a result of the 1 February 2021 coup d'état, as security forces use indiscriminate violence against civilians and fighting increases between Ethnic Armed Groups and the Myanmar Armed Forces.

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The EU will closely monitor the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, in light of the recent developments, in order to step up the humanitarian response further, if needed.     

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EU targets measures on the Burmese military

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Demonstrators in burma

Following the military coup carried out in Myanmar/Burma on 1 February 2021 the EU’s foreign ministers today (22 February) called for de-escalation of the current crisis with an immediate end to the state of emergency, the restoration of the legitimate civilian government and the opening of the newly elected parliament. The EU says it stands with the Burmese people.

They council called again on the military authorities to immediately and unconditionally release President U Win Myint, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all those who have been detained or arrested in connection with the coup and said that authorities should exercise maximum restraint and refrain from the use of violence.

While the EU is ready to support dialogue with all key stakeholders to resolve the situation, the Council stated that the EU stands ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible for the military coup and their economic interests. 

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Though the conclusions state that the EU will continue reviewing all its policy tools as the situation evolves, including its policy on development cooperation and its trade preferences, EU High Representative Josep Borrell, made it clear that he was against cancelling the ‘everything but arms’ trade agreement as it would harm the population, particularly women, and would not have an impact on the military. He said that it was better to target the military and its economic interests.

The EU will continue to provide humanitarian assistance and will seek to avoid measures that could adversely affect the people of Myanmar, especially those people who are in the most vulnerable circumstances.

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