EU Human Rights Sanctions Regime: Ambitions, Reality and Risks

36 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2020

See all articles by Christina Eckes

Christina Eckes

Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance

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Date Written: December 15, 2020


After extensive preparatory work, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy put forward a Joint Proposal for an ‘EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime’ (EU HRSR) to address serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide. This paper starts from the position that setting up an EU HRSR serves a noble objective and could be a desirable tool to flexibly confront with consequences those who commit serious human rights violations. Yet, it would crucially need to comply with human rights itself. This is not a small feat to accomplish. Much hinges on the listing and delisting criteria, the required evidentiary standard, and the information on which the listing decisions are based. Based on a detailed analysis of the Court of Justice's sanctions case law, the paper sets out the requirements with which the EU HRSR would have to comply. Finally, the political choice of adopting a horizontal EU HRSR should be made in full awareness that this is an attempt to decouple the protection of human rights from specific (political) conflicts. This decoupling directly charges the concept of human rights that is traditionally portrayed as ‘neutral’ with sovereign politics.

Keywords: Human rights; sanctions; restrictive measures; listing criteria; evidentiary standard; delisting

Suggested Citation

Eckes, Christina, EU Human Rights Sanctions Regime: Ambitions, Reality and Risks (December 15, 2020). Amsterdam Centre for European Studies Research Paper No. 2020/10, Available at SSRN: or

Christina Eckes (Contact Author)

Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance ( email )

Oudemanhuispoort 4-6
1012 CN Amsterdam

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