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  • The Sergei Magnitsky Case: An Admission of Guilt

    On July 5 the Russian Human Rights Council published its report on the now infamous—and mysterious—death of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. An attorney for the Moscow-based American law firm Firestone Duncan, he represented Hermitage Capital, which was at the time the largest Western hedge fund in Russia.

    Magnitsky died while in custody awaiting trial for a fabricated tax evasion charge. He was jailed after he accused Russian officials of fraudulently obtaining $230 million in tax rebates from the Russian Treasury using a sophisticated swindle. These were the same officials who prosecuted Hermitage and barred its owner, Bill Browder, from returning to Russia for reasons the state refused to reveal.

    The Presidential Human Rights Council accuses the investigators, the jailers, and the prison doctors of malicious negligence at the very least in Magnitsky’s death, but the report indicates that the affair is more akin to murder. The report asserts that Magnitsky was “mistreated” and denied medical attention, especially in the time immediately preceding his death:

    “Before his death, Magnitsky was completely deprived of medical help. Medications his family bought for him, were not delivered. Additionally, there are grounds to suspect that Magnitsky’s death was the result of a beating.

    “His relatives afterward found that he had broken fingers and bruises on his body. Moreover, there is no medical record for the last hour of his life,” the report said.

    President Dmitry Medvedev, who claims to make human rights a priority, said Magnitsky’s death was caused by a “crime,” and that this is an unacceptable episode of inhuman cruelty and state repression. Unfortunately, no one is paying attention: The Ministry of Interior, which supervises the police; the security services; and the Prosecutor General’s office ignored Medvedev. Moreover, Magnitsky’s investigators early this year got medals and were promoted. So much for President Barack Obama’s “reset policy.”

    This and other cases require moral leadership on the part of the United States, which President Obama’s “reset” policy all but precludes. As Heritage’s Ariel Cohen and his co-author Donald Jensen wrote :

    In order for the U.S. to be in a stronger position than it is today, the White House needs to shift from seeking to “please the Russians” to a more vigorous promotion of its values that pressures Moscow to “reset” its policies concerning human rights, democratization, and good governance and to distance itself from rogue states. Key levers in this effort include denying visas to corrupt Russian officials and examining their banking practices and acquisitions. The U.S. should also target police and prosecutors who fabricate evidence and judges who rubber stamp convictions. This is what the bipartisan S. 1039 “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act,” co-sponsored by Senators John McCain (R–AZ), Mark Kirk (R–IL), Joseph Lieberman (I–CT), and Ben Cardin (D–MD), aims to achieve.

    What seems to be missing is the cumulative will of the Obama Administration to take a stand on moral issues, which are corroding economic and political life in the Russian Federation today. Involving moral principles in foreign policy, including in relations with Russia, is not just necessary to maintain respect—it is the American way.

    Anton Altman is a research volunteer at The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to The Sergei Magnitsky Case: An Admission of Guilt

    1. alexander says:

      Whilst a “cellophane” president of Russia mumbling something about human rights and the rule of law, values historically foreign to the “mysterious Russian character”, imperialistic poppet master Vladimir Putin sings “Blue Berry Hill” to stupidly charmed crowd of the leftist Hollywood celebrities and low-back kissing Russian bureaucrats. He wants to be charming and enjoy every bit of false admiration surrounding a strong man in Russia. It was much easier to Stalin. Old Joe did not want to look civilized and openly killed millions. Here we’ve got a dilemma, a sophisticated optimization problem: how much you can still and how many can you kill still to be accepted in President’s Club and not to be overthrown by your own people.

    2. shalley says:

      it seems less and less clear who is to be trusted, Anywhere in the world. The boarders of america, seem un clear. In every circumstance. It makes it difficult to be angry with precise thoughts regarding so much. Honesty doesn't seem a popular topic but how a story is spun to invoke as little waves as possible If we value what people think of us more than our own thoughts, we are a vapor of indecision.

    3. StevenZee says:

      Well, why dont we as individuals and as nations, commit to making a reality of the U.N's " The Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Step one is making it known, throughout the world. Gain popular consensus for it, and see the world slowly improve.

    4. Pingback: Obama’s State Department: Representing the American people to Russia and Israel « The Greenroom

    5. Pingback: Moscow’s Sanctions Tit-for-Tat Threatens to Kill the “Reset”

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