On Tuesday, the European Union (EU) announced sanctions against nine individuals and three entities for their involvement in human rights violations, including sexual violence. This marks the first time the EU has used its human rights sanctions regime, introduced in December 2020. The sanctions were implemented unanimously by all 27 member states and were timed to coincide with International Women’s Day.
Among the individuals sanctioned were senior officials of the Russian Army who were involved in the invasion of Ukraine. Major General Nikolay Anatolevich Kuznetsov and Colonel Ramil Rakhmatulovich Ibatullin are accused of leading divisions that committed “acts of sexual violence” against Ukrainian civilians during attacks carried out last year. The allegations include gang rapes, rape of a pregnant woman near Kyiv, and other sexual crimes committed systematically.
The EU accuses the Russian commanders of being aware of these crimes and, in some cases, of having ordered their perpetration. The EU said these actions constituted war crimes and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. In addition, the EU sanctioned two Moscow police officers accused of arbitrarily detaining and torturing Russian women protesting against the invasion of Ukraine.
Two Taliban ministers, convicted of ending the rights of Afghan women and girls, are also on the sanctions list, as are two commissioners from the South Sudanese government and a deputy minister from Myanmar’s military junta. Three entities have also been sanctioned: Iran’s Qarchak prison, Syria’s Republican Guard, and Myanmar’s military intelligence service.
The sanctions involve the freezing of assets anywhere in the EU, as well as a prohibition on entering EU territory and providing services. Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said the sanctions would send a “clear message” to perpetrators that they “will not get away with their crimes.”
In a joint statement, the European Commission and the EU’s foreign policy officer, Josep Borrell, said they were “alarmed” by the growing oppression of women and girls worldwide and the attacks on their human rights. The decision to sanction individuals and entities for sexual violence comes amid growing concerns about gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.