EU to agree new punishment for chemical weapons use

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European Union flags flutter outside the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

European Union envoys are set to agree a new mechanism to punish chemical weapons’ attacks.

It seeks to target people blamed for using banned munitions regardless of their nationality.

The legal regime, based on a French proposal would allow the EU to impose sanctions more quickly on specific individuals anywhere in the world, freezing their assets in the bloc and banning them from entry.

Ambassadors from the EU’s 28 governments are expected to approve the regime at their weekly meeting on Wednesday, without debate.

The EU already has sanctions lists for Syria and Russia, but under the current system individuals must be added to special country lists.

Banned two decades ago under an international treaty, the rising use of nerve agents has alarmed Western governments.

Human Rights Violations

Recent cases include the assassination of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2017 and the attempted murder of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in March.

EU diplomats say the new chemical weapons regime could be followed up by a similar mechanism for human rights violations, similar to the United States’ Global Magnitsky Act, which allows Washington to sanction individuals for abuses or corruption.

The regime, due to be given a final stamp of approval by EU foreign ministers on Oct. 15, will still need the support of all EU governments for names to be added, according to a preparatory paper.

It was not immediately clear if Britain would propose to add two Russians accused of poisoning Skripal and his daughter.

But diplomats say it is a possibility as Britain has been unable to convince other EU countries to back new sanctions on Russia over the case.