Czech president signs bill allowing sanctions against foreigners

Known internationally as the Magnitsky Act, the bill was one of eight signed into law by Miloš Zeman on Wednesday. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 08.12.2022 15:30:00 (updated on 08.12.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Among eight new bills President Miloš Zeman signed into law Wednesday is legislation that gives Czechia the right to introduce national sanctions against foreign companies and individuals who commit serious unlawful acts.

Based on this law, Czechia can deny entry or stay to foreign nationals or freeze their property, Zeman's office told ČTK.

The law, known internationally as the "Magnitsky Act," would also make it possible for the Czech Republic to impose restrictions on organizations and regimes that violate human rights and commit terrorist acts or cyber-attacks.

The bill empowers the government to sanction individuals and companies based on the Foreign Ministry's suggestion. Objections to any sanctions would be ruled on by the ministry. Those sanctioned can defend themselves in court.

The bill also makes it possible to employ sanctions other than those included on the EU's sanctions list.

In earlier sessions debating the bill, Czech parliament cut the amount of time the cabinet has to review a decision to sanction a company or individual by one-third, to 30 days. Parliament also specified which acts can be considered punishable in accordance with the sanction law.

Such modifications are in place to guarantee that foreigners or foreign companies appear on the sanctions list legitimately, members of parliament said.

Following the passing of the bill, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský tweeted, "I was serious about the promise that the Czech Republic would become a strong voice for the oppressed. President Zeman has already signed the sanctions law, which punishes gross violations of human rights, and now nothing prevents the law presented by me from entering into force."

In its policy statement from early 2022, Prime Minister Petr Fiala's cabinet stated it would pass the Magnitsky Law in an effort to promote and ensure human rights by the end of 2023. The push to pass the law was sped up in reaction to the February Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Similar laws are in force in other EU countries, including France, the Netherlands, Latvia, and Estonia.

The bill defines the conditions under which a person or company can be put on the national list of sanctions, and the steps for Czechia to prepare proposals for those companies' or individuals' EU sanctioning.

Lipavský said Czechia would lean on sanction regimes stemming from the EU law. Negotiations about sanctions on the EU level will be the priority, he said.

"If we do not succeed in the EU, we can adopt our own measures. At the same time, it is true that we need not wait for the EU if we find out that the interest [in listing a subject] is strong enough," Lipavský said.

He also said the establishment of a new department for sanction policies at the Foreign Ministry is planned for the beginning of next year.

The act is named for Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in a Moscow prison in 2009. He was arrested and charged with committing tax fraud in 2008 after having investigated an extensive fraud case involving Russian police and judicial officials.

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