Chamber passes sanction bill against foreigners

Prague, Oct 14 – The Chamber of Deputies today passed a sanction bill against foreigners and foreign companies that committed an unlawful act, under which the Czech state can impose a ban on entry and stay on them or freeze their property.

The law will also make it possible to impose restrictions on organisations and regimes that are violating human rights and use terrorist methods and cyber attacks.

The bill, under which other penalties than those on the EU sanction list can be used, will now be passed on to the Senate, the upper house of Czech parliament.

In the Chamber of Deputies, it was supported by 112 out of 130 present MPs, none of them voted against it. The opposition Freedom and Democracy (SPD) MPs abstained from the vote along with Milan Brazdil and Tatana Mala from senior opposition ANO.

„I consider this the result of confident foreign policy. I am glad that the bill won broad support and I hope it will become a full-fledged part of the foreign policy after it is dealt with in the Senate and passes through the Prague Castle,“ Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky (Pirates) told journalists.

The bill says that the government will decide whether to put someone on the sanction list based on the Foreign Ministry’s suggestion. Objections to the listing will also be sent to the ministry, and the government will decide on them. The people on the list can defend themselves at court, the Metropolitan Court in Prague will be the court of first instance.

The lower house legal and constitutional committee recommended that the lower house shorten the period the government has for reviewing the decision to put someone on a sanction list by one third to 30 days. The lower house agreed with this today.

It also specified the list of regulations based on which a certain act can be considered punishable in accordance with the sanction law.

Karel Haas (Civic Democrats, ODS) and Helena Valkova’s (ANO) adjustments, praised by Lipavsky, are supposed to secure that foreigners and foreign companies will be put on the list justly.

In its policy statement, PM Petr Fiala’s (ODS) cabinet assumed that the Magnitsky Act, which is to improve the enforcement of human rights protection, would be passed by the end of next year.

The work on the bill was sped up because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the EU, France, the Netherlands, Latvia and Estonia have similar laws.

Lipavsky said Czechia will rely on sanction regimes based on EU legislation. Talks on sanction measures on the European level will be a priority, he said. „If we do not succeed in the EU, we may adopt measures of our won. At the same time, we need to wait for the EU if we recognise that the interest is strong enough,“ he said.

He noted that a new section for sanction policies will be working at his ministry as of January.

The Magnitsky Act is to improve the enforcement of human rights protection.

The US Congress approved the Magnitsky Act under then president Barack Obama who signed it in December 2012. It bans the Russian representatives involved in human rights infringement and those who might have contributed to Magnitsky’s death from entering the country.

The act bears the name of 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 involving Russian police and judicial officials.

Magnitsky was hired in Russia by Bill Browder, a prominent British-American financier working extensively in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Browder, who was sentenced to nine years in absentia in Moscow for tax evasion in 2013, published the case and lobbied among American officials to pass a legislation sanctioning Russian individuals involved in corruption. He led the campaign targeting those involved in Magnitsky’s death.