Magnitsky Act Reintroduced and Expanded in the US Congress

April 19, 2011

The ‘Jus­tice for Sergei Mag­nit­sky Act of 2011’ (the “Mag­nit­sky Act”) has been intro­duced for con­sid­er­a­tion by the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives by Con­gress­man James McGov­ern, Co-Chair of the U.S. Con­gres­sional Tom Lan­tos Human Rights Com­mis­sion. The Mag­nit­sky Act imposes visa and eco­nomic sanc­tions on Russ­ian state offi­cials who are respon­si­ble for human rights abuses, tor­ture and the death in cus­tody of Sergei Mag­nit­sky in Novem­ber 2009. The Mag­nit­sky Act also extends US sanc­tions to those Russ­ian offi­cials who are involved in the sub­se­quent cover-up of Magnitsky’s ille­gal deten­tion and tor­ture. The Mag­nit­sky Act is now slated for mark-ups by House Com­mit­tees and for con­sid­er­a­tion in the larger Congress.

In intro­duc­ing the Mag­nit­sky Act in the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on 15 April 2011, Con­gress­man McGov­ern tes­ti­fied that the facts of the case

make Sergei Mag­nit­sky an emblem­atic vic­tim of much larger human rights prob­lems in the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, the utter cor­rup­tion and the com­plete lack of the rule of law in that coun­try. This is what makes the Jus­tice for Sergei Mag­nit­sky Act not just an urgent inter­ven­tion and attempt to estab­lish account­abil­ity in an indi­vid­ual case, but it makes this Act a true Russ­ian Human Rights Act.”

The co-sponsors of the Bill include influ­en­tial Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from both par­ties: Steve Cohen (D-TN), Alcee L. Hast­ings (D-FL), Sue Wilkins Myrick (R-NC), Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), Christo­pher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Frank R. Wolf (R-VA).

In his remarks in front of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Con­gress­man McGov­ern said that Mr Mag­nit­sky was “a remark­able per­son” who “had the courage to stand up for what is right.” Sergei Mag­nit­sky was an out­side lawyer for the Her­mitage Fund, for many years the largest for­eign port­fo­lio investor in Russia.

Sergei Mag­nit­sky was spe­cial, because he was unde­terred in the face of an enor­mous state appa­ra­tus that only served the inter­ests of those peo­ple whom he had impli­cated,” said Con­gress­man McGovern.

In his speech Con­gress­man McGov­ern high­lighted the impunity of Russ­ian offi­cials in the Mag­nit­sky case, fur­ther noting:

Mr. Mag­nit­sky was impris­oned not because he had com­mit­ted a crime, but because he reported one – he just reported it to the wrong peo­ple, the very Russ­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials who had orches­trated a mas­sive tax fraud scheme, and con­tin­ued to report them increas­ingly louder the more he was threat­ened by Russ­ian offi­cials to keep quiet…Up until now, no seri­ous inves­ti­ga­tion into these mat­ters has been under­taken, and most wor­ri­some, no one has been held account­able. Not for the fraud, not for the abuse, not for the death.

Since last year promi­nent human rights activists have been urg­ing world lead­ers to cre­ate legal con­se­quences for the Russ­ian offi­cials impli­cated in the Mag­nit­sky case, none of whom have not been brought to jus­tice in Rus­sia. Those offi­cials not only remain in posi­tions of power within the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment but have since been promoted.

The Mag­nit­sky Act will ban from entry to the United States these cor­rupt Russ­ian offi­cials who were involved in the tor­ture and mur­der in cus­tody of Mr Mag­nit­sky and who facil­i­tated the fraud against the Her­mitage Fund and the sub­se­quent theft of $230 mil­lion from the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. It will also freeze these offi­cials’ accounts with U.S. banks and any assets they hold in the U.S.

Crit­i­cally, the Mag­nit­sky Act extends the visa and eco­nomic sanc­tions to those Russ­ian offi­cials who “par­tic­i­pated in the efforts to con­ceal the legal lia­bil­ity for the deten­tion, abuse, or death of Sergei Mag­nit­sky.” Among the new Russ­ian offi­cials likely to be affected by these sanc­tions are high-ranking offi­cials includ­ing the Head of the Russ­ian Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee Alexan­der Bas­trykin; Chair of the Moscow City Court Olga Egorova; and Head of the Russ­ian Inte­rior Ministry’s Infor­ma­tion Depart­ment, Irina Dudukina.

  • Alexan­der Bas­trykin over­sees the offi­cial Russ­ian inves­ti­ga­tion into Magnitsky’s death. After eigh­teen months, this inves­ti­ga­tion has not iden­ti­fied a sin­gle sus­pect. No indi­vid­ual has been charged. More­over, Mr Bas­trykin refused to open an inquiry into Magnitsky’s tor­ture in cus­tody despite numer­ous appli­ca­tions from human rights activists and Magnitsky’s for­mer colleagues.
  • Olga Egorova over­sees four dis­trict judges in Moscow who denied Magnitsky’s pleas in court about the cruel and tor­tur­ous con­di­tions he was sub­jected to in cus­tody. These judges also ignored ser­ial com­plaints by Mag­nit­sky regard­ing his arrest and deten­tion by the very Inte­rior Min­istry offi­cers he had exposed for their roles in embez­zling $230 mil­lion from the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. These judges fur­ther sanc­tioned his deten­tion based on a doc­u­ment from the Russ­ian Fed­eral Secu­rity Ser­vice that stated that Mag­nit­sky applied for a UK visa, a state­ment that was shown to be false and refuted by the UK Embassy in Moscow. Ms Egorova found noth­ing wrong in those actions. More­over, Ms Egorova went on record after Magnitsky’s death stat­ing that Mag­nit­sky had never requested to be released from cus­tody due to his health despite the fact that offi­cial court records show that Mag­nit­sky made repeated requests to the judges under Ms. Egorova’s oversight.
  • Irina Duduk­ina is in charge of pub­lic infor­ma­tion at the Russ­ian Inte­rior Min­istry. Ms Duduk­ina has pub­licly denied that Inte­rior Min­istry offi­cials had any knowl­edge of Magnitsky’s ill­ness and requests for med­ical help despite the fact that the writ­ten rejec­tions of med­ical care to Mag­nit­sky were signed by senior Inte­rior Min­istry Inves­ti­ga­tor Oleg Silchenko. Fur­ther­more, fol­low­ing Magnitsky’s tor­ture and death, Ms. Duduk­ina has repeat­edly stated that Mag­nit­sky was a crim­i­nal, despite the fact that Mag­nit­sky was never con­victed by a Russ­ian court and that he is no longer alive to defend him­self from these charges.

Last year U.S. Sec­re­tary Hillary Clin­ton called on Rus­sia to “deliver jus­tice” in the Mag­nit­sky case. Instead, the Russ­ian author­i­ties have pro­moted the Inte­rior Min­istry offi­cers impli­cated by Mag­nit­sky in steal­ing $230 mil­lion of pub­lic funds. The offi­cials who orga­nized his arrest and per­se­cu­tion received top state hon­ors on the first anniver­sary of Magnitsky’s death in Novem­ber 2010.

 

This week, as part of a larger pub­lic cam­paign seek­ing jus­tice for Sergei Mag­nit­sky, a new video has been released on YouTube trac­ing $43 mil­lion in illicit wealth acquired by some of these offi­cials impli­cated by Mag­nit­sky fol­low­ing the $230 mil­lion theft. This wealth spans Swiss bank accounts, off­shore com­pa­nies in Cyprus and the British Vir­gin Islands, and lux­ury real estate in Dubai, Mon­tene­gro and Rus­sia. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7yBOEPYJTc)

Sergei Mag­nit­sky dis­cov­ered that Russ­ian Inte­rior Min­istry and tax offi­cials stole $230 mil­lion from the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, and he tes­ti­fied about their involve­ment in this crime. One month after his tes­ti­mony, he was arrested by the same Inte­rior Min­istry offi­cers he had impli­cated and placed in deten­tion where he was kept in tor­tur­ous con­di­tions for nearly a full year. Denied med­ical atten­tion for the con­di­tions he devel­oped in deten­tion, Mag­nit­sky died nearly one year after his false arrest.

Remarks by Con­gress­man McGov­ern:
http://thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r112:E15AP1-0042

Spon­sor of the Jus­tice for Sergei Mag­nit­sky Act of 2011
Jim McGov­ern is a House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Mass­a­chu­setts. A focus of his career has been inter­na­tional human rights. McGov­ern is co-chair of the Tom Lan­tos Human Rights Com­mis­sion and the second-ranking mem­ber on the pow­er­ful House Rules Com­mit­tee, which sets the terms for debate and amend­ments on most legislation.

Co-Sponsors

Steve Cohen (D-TN) serves in sev­eral lead­er­ship roles in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, includ­ing as a Regional Whip, Rank­ing Mem­ber of the Sub­com­mit­tee on Courts, Com­mer­cial and Admin­is­tra­tive Law, and mem­ber of the House Com­mit­tee on Judiciary.

 

Alcee Hast­ings (D-FL) is a Senior Demo­c­ra­tic Whip and an influ­en­tial mem­ber of the Demo­c­ra­tic lead­er­ship. He is also a mem­ber of the pow­er­ful House Rules Com­mit­tee and is a senior Mem­ber of the House Per­ma­nent Select Com­mit­tee on Intel­li­gence.
Sue Myrick (R-NC) serves as the Vice Chair­man of the pow­er­ful Energy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee, which is the old­est leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. She is also the founder of the Con­gres­sional Anti-Terrorism Cau­cus, which has more than 120 Mem­bers.
Joe Pitts (R-PA) serves now exclu­sively on the Energy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee. Pre­vi­ously, he was the vice-chairman of the Inter­na­tional Rela­tions Sub­com­mit­tee on Inter­na­tional Ter­ror­ism, Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, and Human Rights and became widely rec­og­nized as a prin­ci­pled, respected voice on inter­na­tional human rights issues.
Chris Smith (R-NJ) serves as a senior mem­ber on the For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee and is also chair­man of the Com­mis­sion on Secu­rity and Coop­er­a­tion in Europe (OSCE). Smith ranks third among all 435 Mem­bers of the House over the last two decades in the num­ber of laws authored, and is the author of America’s three land­mark anti-human traf­fick­ing laws.
Frank Wolf (R-VA) is the most senior of the 11 mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Vir­ginia, and sits on the pow­er­ful House Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee. He is also co-chairman of the Tom Lan­tos Human Rights Com­mis­sion. He led the first con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion to Dar­fur in west­ern Sudan to bring atten­tion to the cri­sis there. He also has worked to call atten­tion to the human rights abuses and reli­gious per­se­cu­tion around the world.

Comments

4 Responses to “Magnitsky Act Reintroduced and Expanded in the US Congress”

  1. Larry Black on June 12th, 2011 19:39

    The Mag­nit­sky Act, like the Jackson-Vannik Act before it (at least as it remained in place after the end of the USSR), is an extra­or­di­nar­ily self-righteous and self-serving (for votes) anti-Russian leg­is­la­tion. Even though the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the Mag­nit­sky case are indeed grim, few Amer­i­cans know any­thing about it now, or ever will. They will sim­ply blame Putin and Medvedev, as the politi­cians who are nur­tur­ing the ‘I am more anti-Russian’ than my oppo­nent vote are doing, because Rus­sia is an easy tar­get. Never mind that worse things hap­pen in coun­tries deemed to be our friends (e.,g. Saudi Ara­bia), or that Rus­sia could be our best poten­tial ally vs inter­na­tional ter­ror­ism, post­war chaos in Afghanistan, source of oil & gas, and Euro­pean defense. The Russ­ian print media and blog­gers, which is far less con­trolled than the simple-minded believe in the US, is on this case crit­i­cally all the time. To be frank the hys­te­ria that these con­gress­men will stir up is infan­tile and destructive.

  2. Nadezhda Banchik on August 9th, 2011 11:54

    Oh yes, Rus­sia is the eas­i­est tar­get, hav­ing the second-large nukes poten­tial, in addi­tion to chem­i­cal and bio, and of course con­ven­tional weapons. More­over, it pos­sess the tap from the oil and gas pipelines, hav­ing the rich­est nat­ural sources of both; there­fore, it can exer­cise its “right” to close oil and gas sup­plies even in the mid­dle of win­ter, as it did dur­ing the Orange Rev­o­lu­tion.
    Also, of course Rus­sia “can be” our “poten­tial” ally vs inter­na­tional ter­ror­ism, as far as her con­cept of inter­na­tional ter­ror­ism starts and fin­ishes with the fierce geno­ci­dal war waged on Chechens.

  3. root on June 13th, 2012 19:46

    Amer­ica should pri­or­i­tize the rule of law and Mag­nit­sky Act should be applied also to those cor­rupted Judges and Autho­rised offi­cials in Rus­sia who are claimed in Euro­pean Human Rights Court, as most all of them have great finan­cial assets and real estate in West­ern coun­tries, so Mag­nit­sky Act will be a warn­ing for them.

  4. Lyudmila Shedaker on December 7th, 2012 03:46

    My sug­ges­tion is that Con­gress­man James McGov­ern doesn’t know all the truth about Sergey Mag­nit­sky. Nobody beat him up in prison. He had sud­den acute pain. I’m famil­iar with such a sick­ness by myself.
    Why two Brits, Sir Mal­colm and Mr. Miliband, didn’t apply to British Human Rights depart­ment.
    They robbed Rus­sia with Sergey Magnitsky’s help.
    Maybe because the Eng­lish pub­lic knows more about such affair.

    It’s a shame for the USA to take part in some­body else’s durty fight over money!

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