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  • Magnitsky Act: Congress Should Uphold America’s Commitment to Human Rights

    On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relation Committee unanimously passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which would ban Russian officials involved in Magnitsky’s death from entering the U.S. and using U.S. financial institutions. The bill was cleared earlier this month by a House committee.

    Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov called the Senate committee’s decision “counterproductive” and threatened “harsh” retaliation, including banning certain U.S. officials from visiting Russia. This past May, the Russian ambassador also threatened to retaliate if the Magnitsky act becomes law.

    Be that as it may, the Obama Administration and Congress should not yield to Russian threats but should uphold America’s commitment to human rights. Russian officials should have thanked American lawmakers for stepping in where Russian law enforcement failed abysmally.

    Magnitsky’s in a Russian prison is a demonstration of rampant corruption in the Russian state’s highest echelons. Magnitsky was a 37-year-old attorney and accountant who worked for Hermitage, then the largest Western private equity fund in Russia. In the course of his work, he uncovered a giant alleged corruption scheme that involved embezzlements of $230 million from the Russian treasury by law enforcement and tax officials.

    After making accusations, he was placed in prison, where he was beaten mercilessly by guards and denied medical care, which led to his tragic death. An investigation by the Russian Presidential Council on Human Rights has confirmed as much. However, this has not resulted in the punishment of those involved. On the contrary, some of the culprits were even promoted and decorated.

    The Russian government’s inability, procrastination, or unwillingness to prosecute human rights abusers has prompted the U.S. Congress to take action. It doesn’t really matter that the individuals responsible for Magnitsky’s death might not even think of visiting the U.S. or keeping their money in U.S. banks. The Magnitsky bill is aimed at human rights abusers not only in the Magnitsky case, and not only in Russia, but around the globe. The bill is also meant to signal that the U.S. will always support those who value the rule of law and freedom worldwide.

    The Obama Administration has viewed the Magnitsky bill as a threat to its “reset” policy toward Russia. The Administration wants to extend permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Russia without passing the Magnitsky legislation as Russia prepares to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in August.

    Last week, the Senate and House held hearings on Russia’s looming WTO entry. Senator Max Baucus (D–MT), who chaired the Senate Finance Committee hearing, rightly said in his statement that the U.S. should not disregard human rights and democracy and pledged to include the Magnitsky bill in the PNTR legislation.

    As we wrote recently, the U.S. needs to take new measures to protect human rights in Russia and elsewhere before moving on to normalizing trade relations with Moscow. Targeted legislation like the Magnitsky Act would be an effective way to encourage Russia to respect the rights of its citizens—despite the empty threats of the Duma.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to Magnitsky Act: Congress Should Uphold America’s Commitment to Human Rights

    1. bossassistant says:

      Magnitsky Act is a very effective aid against corruption in Russia, as almost all assets stolen by corrupted judges, officials etc. are in US or Europoean banks and can be used for corruption schemes organization inside these countries. The most effective way to improve law system in Russia is to apply Magintrky Act rules for those judges and officials who are considered to be guilty in ECHR Russian cases. It should be advertised in advance to all Russian judges, so they should know all conequenses in case they violate human rights laws. So many such corruption cases could be prevented and criminal situation fixed

    2. Alex Kruglov says:

      As Russian citizen I must you say that Russian Foreign Office doesn't express the opinion of Russian people – they provide the personal opinion of corrupted employees stongly affected by this issue! All Russian nation support this issue and don't support the opinion of Russian officials. This law will be more effective if US Congress add to Section 5 and 6 of issue the closest relatives of courrupted employees – their husbands, wives, children, parents, brothers and sisters. I have written the letter about this proposal to US senators Mr McCain and Mr Ben Cardin but their offices didn't respond me at all…

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