International Regulatory Enforcement (PHIRE)
European Council Takes Significant Actions on Global Human Rights
By Nicola Bonucci, Tara Giunta, Jon Drimmer and Quinn Dang
On December 7, 2020, the European Council, the EU’s highest body, adopted a
The European Council action establishes a framework to address serious human rights violations, which include genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, slavery, enforced disappearance of persons, and arbitrary arrests or detentions, as well as trafficking in human beings, sexual and gender-based violence, violations or abuses of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, violations or abuses of freedom of opinion and expression, and violations or abuses of freedom of religion and belief.
The sanctions authorized under the action include freezing all funds and economic resources belonging to the individual or entity and prohibiting funds or economic resources from being made available directly or indirectly to or for the benefit of the sanctioned person or entity. It also calls on Member States to take necessary measures to “prevent the entry into, or transit through, their territories” of persons responsible for human rights violations.
These sanctions developments come on the heels of the European Council’s approval of conclusions calling on member states and the European Commission to promote human rights in global supply chains. Notably, for the first time, the European Council asks the European Commission for an EU legal framework on sustainable corporate governance, including cross-sector corporate due diligence obligations.
The European Council's “Conclusions on Human Rights and Decent Work in Global Supply Chains” (available
Acknowledging that voluntary measures have been important but insufficient to address the problem to date, the European Council calls on the European Commission to introduce “a proposal for an EU legal framework on sustainable corporate governance, including cross-sector corporate due diligence obligations along global supply chains.” The European Council specifies that the proposal could include a “definition of what kind of risk management process companies need to follow to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for its adverse human and labour rights and environmental impacts.” However, the Council has not set any specific time line for such a proposal.
These European Council actions are to be read in conjunction with the Commission initiative announced in September of this year that proposes to require that companies conduct mandatory human rights due diligence,