US Students Launch Campaign and New Movie to Support Magnitsky Act

May 17, 2012

A group of US students is launching a campaign across U.S. campuses in support of the bill entitled: “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act” in both chambers of the US Congress (H.R.4405; S.1039) that would impose U.S. visa bans and asset freezes on the Russian government officials involved in the torture and murder of 37-year old, whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, as well as other gross human rights abusers. Over 3 million students represented by the College-100, a network of student body presidents from top U.S. universities, are expected to join in the “Sergei’s Law” campaign.

“The Magnitsky Act is an initiative reflecting the core values of American democracy and importantly, it is something that Russian people want, even if the Russian government opposes it. It’s important for US politicians to know that,” said Zachary Todd, the founder of the College-100.

The “Sergei’s Law” campaign was launched this week by The College-100, with the unveiling of a Youtube video ( featuring leading Russian civil society activists advocating for the Magnitsky Act to be passed. The College-100 is launching a worldwide campaign to get signatures for the petition posted on the dedicated website, ‘Sergei’s Law’, urging the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act in light of the impunity of Magnitsky’s killers in Russia. It also calls on other world parliaments to do the same.
The campaign and the subsequent movie came about as a backlash by American students against Russian state propaganda. In 2010, a group of selected American student body presidents visited Russia at the invitation of the deputy head of Russian presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov. The trip was aimed at convincing them to accept the objectives of the current Russian political regime. The intentions of the Russian authorities backfired, however, as several students went on to learn about the work of Russian rights activists and opposition leaders. Some of these students would go on to found the College-100. One of the first projects of the College-100 was to support the Russian activists and their call for adopting sanctions against corrupt Russian officials.
The seven-minute movie, “Sergei’s Law”, is the outcome of their collaboration showing a collection of short interviews with leading Russian civil society figures.

The movie dispels two myths. One is that Russians do not support the Magnitsky Act sanctions. Fourteen members of the Russian opposition and protest movement featured in the movie, including Boris Nemtsov, Aleksei Navalny, Ilya Ponomarev, Vladimir Milov, and Ilya Yashin, all strongly support the Magnitsky Act and say that its adoption will be in Russia’s true national interest.

“Punishing corrupt Russian officials is good for the Russian people. The fact that currently they feel invincible here is hurting Russia and its national interest,” says Ilya Yashin, a Russian opposition leader.

“The bill is not anti-Russian. These officials steal and kill Russian citizens in Russia, and then they invest their money abroad,” says Alexei Navalny, a leader of the current protest movement on the streets in Moscow.

The second myth is that the sanctions won’t be effective. Russian activists clearly articulate that the Magnitsky Act will serve as deterrent for corruption and will bring positive results. They stress that it is necessary for the corrupt Russian officials to face consequences abroad.

“This bill will have a lot of influence. Previously these officials did not fear any potential justice,” says Vladimir Milov, an opposition leader.
“The possibility for these Russian bureaucrats that their money will be seen in the West as illegitimate is the scariest thing in the world,” says Kseniya Sobchak, a Russian TV personality and journalist who recently joined the protest movement.

“We can’t punish these murderers here, let someone else punish them,” says Irina Vorobieva, journalist for an independent Russian radio station, Echo of Moscow.

“Use banks, not tanks. Hit them in their wallets because that is what they [corrupt Russian officials] care about,” urges Garry Kasparov, a Russian opposition leader and former World Chess champion.

Saumitra Thakur, a participant on the 2010 trip to Russia and Executive Director of the College-100 says:
“The U.S. student body is one of the most important places for grassroots advocacy. Ours are the institutions that train leaders in the US and abroad so it becomes our responsibility to mobilize student voices against such injustice; student protests have changed the world before, from putting pressure on Apartheid South Africa to signalling to the Russian leaders now that a generation of Americans disapproves of their conduct.”
A public opinion poll conducted by the independent Levada Center last year, showed that the Magnitsky Act enjoyed overwhelming support among the Russian people, with 60 percent of Russian respondents supporting the imposition of visa bans and asset freezes by the US and the EU on the Russian officials implicated in the Magnitsky case.

The College-100 (C-100) is a network of elite student body president; Rhodes, Truman, and Gates scholars; Olympians; and other distinguished young people. The C-100 launches and incubates several projects, including this and other issues. C-100’s presidents alone represent over 3 million young people from top universities in the United States.

Visit Sergei’s Law website and sign petition:
Watch ‘Sergei’s Law’ in English:
in Russian:


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