UK Foreign Secretary William Hague Weighs In On the Magnitsky Case Prior to Official Russia Visit

September 27, 2010

Prior to his first official visit to Russia this October, Foreign Secretary William Hague stepped up the international pressure on Russia to get justice for Sergei Magnitsky, the murdered anti-corruption lawyer for UK-based investment firm, Hermitage Capital.

On November 16, 2009, 37-year old Sergei Magnitsky died in police custody after being tortured for his testimony about the involvement of police officials in the largest tax fraud in Russian history. Shortly after his death, President Medvedev called for an investigation, but ten months later no one has been charged and a number of police officers involved have been promoted.

In response to the lack of progress in the Russian investigation of Magnitsky’s death in Russian police custody mentioned in a letter from David Davis MP, the Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote:

“The launch of an investigation into the death in custody of Mr Magnitsky was a welcome step. However, it is important that this investigation should be thorough and transparent if it is to address both human rights concerns and the effect of this case on investor confidence”.

He continued: “Mr Browder [CEO of Hermitage Capital Management] and his team have been in regular contact with Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials and we have followed closely the case of Mr Magnitsky and wider issues relating to Mr Browder’s company.”

In a speech given earlier this month, William Hague stated that as Foreign Secretary he intended to “improve and strengthen [Britain’s] human rights work”.

The intervention from Secretary Hague follows a series of representations by the British Government to their Russian counterparts over the intimidation of Hermitage, its executives and lawyers who blew the whistle on the massive Russian corruption with involvement of Russian police and intelligence services. Immediately after Mr Magnitsky’s death, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed his deep concern and insisted on a full investigation. Gordon Brown stressed that the case of persecution of Hermitage executives and lawyers and the unlawful arrest of Sergei Magnitsky was brought up formally by then Foreign Secretary David Miliband, several days before Magnitsky’s death in custody, with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov and First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Igor Shuvalov.

Foreign Secretary Hague also commented on the possibility of excluding from the UK the Russian officials involved in Magnitsky’s persecution and murder.

Secretary Hague wrote: “Mr Browder was also advised that the Home Secretary may exclude an individual from coming to the UK where she considers that the individual’s presence would not be conducive to the public good…This power may be exercised even where an individual has not applied to come here. The Home Secretary would need to be satisfied that exclusion was both proportionate and justified in the light of clear, credible evidence.”

“These individuals… would need to obtain a visa to visit the UK and such an application could, in principle, be refused if the Entry Clearance Officer were satisfied that their presence in the UK would not be conducive to the public good, for example because of character, conduct or associations.”

This latest communication from the UK Foreign Secretary further strengthens the worldwide campaign for justice for Sergei Magnitsky which now spans initiatives of implementing visa and banking sanctions against the officials implicated in Magnitsky’s death. This month, leading Russian civil society activists sent a formal appeal to the governments of the US and EU member states urging to enact permanent visa ban against the 60 Russian officials on the Cardin List. Among those who signed and supported the appeal are Ludmila Alexeeva, Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Sergei Kovalev, Chair of Memorial human rights group; Lev Ponomarev, Director of For Human Rights group; Alexei Simonov, President of Glasnost foundation.

Earlier this year, Benjamin Cardin, US Senator and Chairman of the US Helsinki Commission empowered to monitor human rights in accordance with OSCE Helsinki Accords, urged the US Secretary of State to introduce permanent travel sanctions and visa bans on the 60 Russian officials implicated in the US$230 million corruption uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, and his repressive arrest, torture and death in custody.

The 60 Russian officials were also put on WorldCheck’s international banking blacklist.

In addition to the British Foreign Secretary, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently publicly demanded from Russian authorities that “justice be delivered” in Magnitsky case.

The President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek raised the Magnitsky case in June directly with Russian President Medvedev and Chairman of the Russian Parliament Gryzlov and stated that the investigation of involved officials will continue to be closely watched by the European Parliament.

Many of the officials involved in the Sergei Magnitsky case have enriched themselves and are living way beyond their official salaries pursuing lavish lifestyles all over the world. For more see Russian Untouchables videos on YouTube:;


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