British Politician Calls for End to Russia’s “Putin-lag” on Magnitsky Case

November 18, 2010

The Rt Hon Dr Denis MacShane, MP, called upon British Prime Minister David Cameron to raise with Russian Prime Minister Putin the case of Sergei Magnitsky, the 37-year old Russian anti-corruption lawyer tortured to death in police custody a year ago.

The Rt Hon Denis MacShane said:

“Today I have tabled Parliamentary Questions asking David Cameron to raise the Magnitsky case when he goes to Moscow as the dead lawyer was working for a British firm and representing British citizens and therefore the British prime minister should raise these issues with the Russian Prime Minister, Mr Putin.”

“Our duty is firmly and without fear to keep reminding the Russian authorities that with wealth and a desire to have a say in world affairs comes responsibility. The fullest investigation into Magnitsky’s death would be a good place to start”

Speaking at the House of Commons on Tuesday night on the one-year anniversary of Magnitsky’s death, MacShane said that the death of Magnitsky in custody of policemen he implicated in $230 million corruption is a prime example that the rule of law does not exist in today’s Russia. Rather, it indicates that the country has recreated a modern-day Gulag under the Putin regime, called a “Putinlag.”

MacShane hosted Tuesday night’s global premiere at the UK Parliament of “Justice for Sergei,” a unique 52-minute documentary about Magnitsky’s life and death. Speaking about the significance of the Justice for Sergei premiere, MacShane said:

“The anniversary of the death of Sergei Magnitsky is a sombre reminder that rule of law cannot be said to exist in Russia. It is a remarkable film. We saw this happy man, a professional lawyer, cheerful with friends and family reduced by his incarceration in the new gulag – should we call it the Putinlag? – to the pale shadow of a human being until finally the Russian state system brought his life to an end.”

Carla Ferstman from REDRESS, a UK-based human rights organization supporting torture survivors, said about the Justice of Sergei campaign:

“Sergei Magnitsky did what many in Russia thought was unthinkable – to stand up for what he knew was right despite the consequences. The Russian system failed him, and what is important now on the anniversary of his death is to commit to fighting impunity for the abominable treatment he received and that others like him continue to receive. Russia has ratified the UN Convention against Torture and is a part of the European Convention on Human Rights which outlaws torture in all its forms. Let us hold the Russian Government to these fundamental commitments.”

Sir Tony Brenton, former UK Ambassador to Russia, noted:

“The death of Sergei Magnitsky is an appalling indictment of some parts of the Russian judicial system. It is important for Russia, as it is for the wider world, that they clean this poison out. Given the clear British dimension to this case, I hope that the British authorities will be no less active than others to that end.”

The premiere of Justice for Sergei was part of the unprecedented screening of the movie that took place on the same day at the national parliaments of the US, Canada, Germany, UK, Estonia and at the European Parliament in Brussels. At these parliamentary screenings, politicians, scholars and human rights activists protested the impunity of Russian officials responsible for the arrest and torture of Magnitsky to death. One year since his death, no one has been charged or convicted.

Sergei Magnitsky (8 April 1972 – 16 November 2009), an outside lawyer for the Hermitage Fund, discovered that Russian police were involved in misappropriating his client’s investment companies and embezzling $230 million of public funds through the largest tax refund fraud in Russian history. Magnitsky testified against the state officials involved, and in retribution they arrested him, detained him for 12 months without trial and tortured him to withdraw his testimony. Despite the systematic physical and psychological torture, Magnitsky refused to change his testimony. He died on 16 November 2009 at the age of 37 leaving a mother, wife and two children.

For more information on the The Rt Hon Dr Denis MacShane, MP for the Rotherham Constituency see:

For more information on the corruption Magnitsky discovered and his torture in Russian police custody visit:

See “Justice for Sergei”, a documentary about the life and death of Sergei Magnitsky at:


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