U.S. State Department Scrutinizes Russian Handling of Magnitsky Case

U.S. State Department Scrutinizes Russian Handling of Magnitsky Case

By Pearl Rimon
Impunity Watch, Europe Desk

MOSCOW, Russia —  In its annual Report on Human Rights Practices for 2011, The United States Department of State strongly criticized Russia for the continuing impunity of the Russian officials who were involved in the killing of Sergei Magnitsky.

Sergei Magnitsky, Russian lawyer who died in prison (Photo courtesy of Russian Untouchables)..

The report states that Magnitsky’s death was a result of medical abuse and neglect during pretrial detention. The report stated the following, “In May the Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office con­cluded its probe into the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs offi­cers who arrested and pros­e­cuted Mag­nit­skiy. It found no evi­dence of wrong­do­ing. In June the Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office approved the find­ings of the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs offi­cers accused by Mag­nit­skiy of tax fraud and the theft of 5 bil­lion rubles (approx­i­mately $150 mil­lion). In their report the offi­cers claimed that Mag­nit­skiy him­self car­ried out the theft that he reported to authorities.”

The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act involves the banning of (1) individuals responsible for the death or detention of Magnitsky or involved in any related criminal conspiracy; or (2) individuals responsible for any human right violations against individuals who seek to expose illegal activity by the Russian government.

Despite former Russian President Medvedev’s intervention in the Magnitsky manner, nobody has been convicted in Russia for their involvement with the case. “Medvedev acknowl­edged that a ‘crime had been com­mit­ted.’ How­ever, on August 2, police refused a request by the coun­cil to rein­ves­ti­gate Magnitskiy’s death,” says the U.S State Department’s report.

The Magnitsky issue highlighted the rampant corruption that occurred on different levels of the government. In this particular case, Magnitsky was prosecuted by the very same Internal Affair Ministry officers that he accused of fraudulent behavior.

The U.S. is not the only country considering placing a ban on Russian officials linked to the Magnitsky case, a group of Italian deputies is advocating the idea and is currently slated to be discussed in Italian parliament for this week. The Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is expected to announce whether or not it has decided to conduct an independent investigation into the death of Magnitsky due to Russia’s failure in convicting anyone for his death.

For further information please see:

The Heritage Foundation – After WTO Membership Promoting Human Rights In Russia With The Magnitsky Act – 14 May 2012

Law and Order Russia – U.S. Government Escalates Criticism of Russia’s Handling of Magnitsky Case – 28 May 2012

Notes From India: The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)

Courtney Schuster
Special Contributor, Blog Entry #1

In a rundown office space in the middle of one of Delhi’s poorest neighborhoods, there is a group of lawyers, activists, and interns slowly trying to change India.  Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) is a NGO using public interest litigation, social activism, and training seminars to redirect Indian laws in an effort to better protect prisoners, the disabled, minorities, women, and children.  They strive to ensure the right to food, the right to health care, and the right to be treated equally before the law.

The HRLN front entry.

Currently, 95% of maternal deaths worldwide occur in Asia and in Africa, with India carrying 20% of the global burden.  The vast majority of maternal deaths are preventable and are mostly attributed to causes such as anemia, postpartum hemorrhaging, and unsafe abortions.  The Reproductive Rights Initiative at HRLN is trying to lower the maternal mortality rate by enforcing the government-mandated existence of adequate health facilities.

The accessibility of health care facilities in rural areas is one of the main health care problems in India, especially for those who are in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category.  Many health centers are only open a few hours a day and those that are open are under-equipped and understaffed.  Often times, people are turned away from health centers due to lack of staffing, supplies, and beds.  People either have to hire an expensive private car to take them to another facility or they do not receive medical care at all.  Those who are BPL cannot afford to hire a car so they go without medical care; giving birth at home or going without treatment for illness and disease.  This is a violation of India’s responsibility under state and international law.

The government created the National Rural Health Mission to ensure that those who are BPL receive health care.  It created standards that all public health centers must abide by, including a minimum number of staff must be present at any given time; a minimum number of beds; adequate equipment, tools, and facilities; standards for sanitizing equipment; the presence of unexpired, vital medicines; the administration of family planning services; and blood bank facilities at health centers.

Family planning measures are an important part of government operations in India.  Due to overpopulation, crowding, and strains on resources, the federal government mandates that public health centers offer tubal ligations (tubectomies), contraceptives, counseling, and access to safe abortions.  State governments across India sponsor Sterilization Camps, where women and occasionally men, undergo tubal ligations or vasectomies.  There are instances of women and men undergoing operations without any knowledge or consent of the family planning procedure.  There are cases where the procedure failed and women became pregnant with unwanted children.  There was even a case in which a hospital prescribed and performed hysterectomies on women on 74% of the women that entered the facilities, all without any examination.  HRLN is in the process of bringing all of these instances to the attention of the courts as public interest litigation petitions.


Courtney Schuster is a third-year student at Syracuse University College of Law.  She is currently working as an intern in India for the summer.  She will be contributing personal blog entries throughout her internship, documenting the challenges of solving human rights issues in international settings.  


Syrian Network for Human Rights: Special Report on 27 May Massacre in Hama

Massacre in Hama

After the Al-Houla massacre, divisions of the Syrian Regime army marched north and raided the city of Hama.  The troops were reinforced with many armoured vehicles and snipers who were already positioned on high buildings.  In the attack 33 victims were killed, including 7 kids and 5 women.  More than 90 people were wounded.

Districts that came under fierce shelling by armoured vehicles and artillery shells were: Athaheryea, Masha’a Al-Arba’een, some quarters of Aleppo Road, and Masha’a Al-Furousia (Janoub Al-Mal’ab).  When the residents of the abovementioned districts tried to flee, regime’s snipers targeted them, so scores of people were wounded, some of whom are now suffering from critical injuries.  The number of the wounded was at least 90 people.  At least 50 of the wounded received medical care in a makeshift hospital.  This included those with critical injuries, most of whom were women and children.



The victims and the wounded are shown following the massacre.  


The makeshift hospital where the wounded are being treated.


For further information, please see;

Syrian Network for Human Rights – Special Report Hama Massacre – 27 May 2012

Mounting Accusations Plague Brazil’s Top Officials

By Margaret Janelle Hutchinson
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Brasília, Brazil – Gilmer Mendes, a judge on Brazil’s high court, is accusing former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (“Lula”) of pressuring him to set aside a planned trial of the biggest scandal of his administration.

Former President Lula and Gilmar Mendes. (Photo Courtesy of Em Tempo Real)


The scandal erupted during President Lula’s first term in 2005 and caused a number of top officials in the governing Worker’s Party to resign.  In 2007, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) accepted the complaint against 40 politicians suspected of involvement in the alleged scheme reported by then Congressman Roberto Jefferson (PTB), which became known as “mensalão” or “big monthly allowance”. Jefferson said lawmakers accepted base periodic payments in exchange for voting with the interests of President Lula’s government.

Over the weekend Judge Mendes told Veja magazine that Mr. da Silva, 66, asked him in April in Brasília, the capital, to postpone the trial, set for August. Judge Mendes said the pressure at the April meeting in Brasília included an insinuation by Mr. da Silva that Judge Mendes could be linked to another scandal, this one involving an opposition senator, Demostenes Torres, and his ties to a businessman, Carlos Augusto Ramos (better known by his nickname, Carlinhos Cachoeira or “Charlie Waterfall”), who is accused of running illegal gambling operations.  The former president confirmed that the meeting in Brasília took place, but has adamantly denied the validity of Mendes’s accusations.

These mounting accusations of corruption at the highest levels cast a shadow over the current presidency of Dilma Rousseff. Ms. Rousseff is also of the Worker’s Party and was endorsed by President Lula as his successor. Scandals have forced seven cabinet ministers to resign in the past year, including Ms. Rousseff’s chief of staff. Ms. Rousseff issued a statement on Wednesday rejecting any threat of an “institutional crisis” between the judiciary and executive branches over the feud.

The president of the STF, minister Ayres Britto responded to the dispute between Judge Mendes and Mr. da Silva during a plenary session, stating that, “The judiciary is immune to such dissent. I have said repeatedly that we are experienced in coping with situations of all kinds. We did not lose the focus that it is our duty to judge the whole process – including the monthly allowance – with objectivity, impartiality, and serenity, ultimately aware of the evidence in the file.”  Mr. Britto also expressed that the trial should take place as soon as possible.

Two judges on the 11-member court are expected to retire soon, so if the trial is delayed, Ms. Rousseff’s nominations to fill the vacancies could influence the outcome, raising concerns over the Workers Party’s influence over the trial.

For further information, please see:

Primeira Edição – Lula já se encontrou com cinco ministros do STF em 2012 – 31 May 2012

Jornal do Brasil – Ayres Britto reafirma que não existe crise institucional por causa do Mensalão – 30 May 2012

The New York Times – Brazil’s Political Class Jolted by Claim That Ex-Leader Pressed a High Court Judge – 30 May 2012

The Washington Post – Supreme Court justice accuses former Brazilian president Silva of pressure to set aside trial – 29 May 2012