European Lawmakers Condemn the Absence of the Rule of Law in Magnitsky Case

November 18, 2010

Lawmakers around the world paid tribute this week to Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian anti-corruption lawyer, who was arrested and tortured to death a year ago in police custody after he had exposed the embezzlement of $230 million by Russian state officials. European politicians said Magnitsky’s case has demonstrated the prevailing disrespect for human rights in Russia and the horrible price paid by the Russian people for the absence of the rule of law. They further questioned whether foreign companies should do business in Russia while corrupt officials are still not held accountable.

Speaking on the anniversary of Magnitsky’s death, the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek called upon the Russian leadership to prosecute those responsible for the torture and death of Magnitsky. He said:

“I raised the case of Sergey Magnitsky’s death during my meeting with President Medvedev in June in Moscow. I urge once again the authorities of the Russian Federation at all appropriate levels to conduct a thorough, impartial and credible investigation in order to bring those involved in and responsible for the death of Sergey Magnitsky to justice.”

He continued: “Sergey Magnitsky was a brave man, who in his fight against corruption was unjustifiably imprisoned under ruthless conditions and then died in jail without receiving appropriate medical care. This is a shocking example showing that people fighting against corruption in Russia can feel neither safe nor protected.”

As part of the campaign against the impunity of the Russian state officials behind the persecution of Sergei Magnitsky and the theft of $230 million from the Russian government, “Justice for Sergei”, a 52-minute documentary by Dutch filmmakers, was premiered on 16 November at the parliaments of the UK, Germany, Estonia, Canada, the United States and at the European Parliament in Brussels.

The “Justice for Sergei” film screening event at the German Bundestag was organized by a member of the Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Committees, Marina Schuster MdB. She said:

“The screening is a commemoration of Sergei Magnitsky, as a sign for his courage, but also for his family. At the same time, the film denounces the lack of rule of law and the inhuman treatment in Russian prisons. We will not put aside the fate of Sergei Magnitsky, but rather we will continue in our quest for reconnaissance.”

Marieluise Beck MdB, Member of the German Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee, who attended the film screening on Tuesday said:

“The Magnitsky case is not the only scandal in Russia’s judiciary… It affects Russia’s credibility, calling for judicial reform and rule of law. It affects a country which wants to be recognized as a modern state and a valued global partner. It affects a country that has obliged itself to the values of the Council of Europe. Now it is up to German politicians, as well as German companies which are gaining large profits in Russia, to make it unmistakably clear that they see major obstacles in investing in a country in which it is hardly possible to rely on legal proceedings based on the rule of law.”

One year since the tragic death of Magnitsky, no one has been charged or convicted in Russia for Magnitsky’s false arrest and torture in custody.

Ryszard Kalisz, Chairman of Justice and Human Rights Committee of the Polish SEJM, said:

“The way the investigation in this case has been carried out makes me wonder if the human rights in Russian Federation are respected. This case must be cleared with respect to international standards.”

Heidi Hautula MEP (Finland), chair of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights, organized the screening of Justice for Magnitsky at the European Parliament. She said:

“The film is a touching documentary about what can happen to ordinary man in Russia who simply carries out his day to day job. I wanted to air the film in the European Parliament so that Sergei did not die in vain; this travesty must result to improvements in accountability and to the horrific prison conditions in Russia.”

Kristiina Ojuland MEP (Estonia), who co-hosted the screening of Justice for Sergei at the European Parliament, said:

“Today we had a chance of seeing the everyday reality in Russia. Sergei Magnitsky has become a symbol of tens, perhaps hundreds of people in Russia of whom we have never heard of, but who share a similar fate.”

The host of the Justice for Sergei event at the Estonian Parliament, and member of Estonian Foreign Affairs Committee, Silver Meikar MP said:

Russia is a great country that has produced many great personalities. Alas, it is also a country responsible for the premature termination of the lives of several great people, such as Anna Politkovskaya, Natalya Estemirova, Stanislav Markelov and last year Sergei Magnitsky. Those remarkable people were seeking for democracy and justice in Russia, but all they found was martyrdom. The film “Justice for Sergei” ought to be viewed keeping in mind that he is one of many, whose tragic death has remained unresolved. Past years hundreds of journalists and human rights activists have been killed in Russia.”

He continued: “The fact that this film was premiered today in a number of parliaments around the world, among them the Parliament of the Republic of Estonia, is significant – we must not allow the death of Sergei Magnitsky to fade into obscurity. We have to remind the Russian authorities that the people of Russia deserve the truth and justice and that the world public does not turn the blind eye.”

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.

On 12 November 2010, Transparency International, the civil society organization leading the fight against corruption globally, posthumously awarded Sergei Magnitsky its 2009-2010 Integrity Award recognizing Magnitsky’s “courageous fight” against corruption as a “lone individual against the power of an entire state.”

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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