16 November 2012 – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act (365 in favour, 43 against).
The bill creates targeted sanctions for the officials involved in the case of Sergei Magnitsky as well as other gross human rights abuse in Russia.
Speaking before the vote, U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, the original sponsor of the bill, and Co-Chair of Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, stated the understanding of “the Congressional intent” to make public the list of sanctioned individuals. Congressman McGovern noted that the congressional intent is to make use of a classified annex only in cases of national security interest. His understanding was shared by other speakers on the floor.
The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry promised a “tough” response, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ryabkov.
U.S. Congressman Smith speaking before the vote said: “All howls from Kremlin show we are on to something here.” Congressman Smith stated it was important that Russian officials be held accountable for “the crimes against their own countrymen”. The bill is a clear statement that “murderers and torturers are not welcome here,” said Congressman Smith on the House floor.
Russian human rights activists welcome the bill. Leader of the For Human Rights movement Lev Ponomaryev told Interfax news agency: “I am sure that the Magnitsky Act is necessary.” According to him, if the USA passes the law, this would encourage the Russian authorities to fully investigate Magnitsky’s death.
“Sooner or later, they will have to resolve this problem in Russia. Whether this issue will be addressed immediately after the USA passes the law, I do not know. Nevertheless, the adoption of the law in the USA will be a step in the right direction,” the activist said, according to Interfax.
To become a law, the bill has to be voted by the Senate and signed by US President.
The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act imposes assets freezes and visa bans on those who was responsible for the detention, abuse or death of Sergei Magnitsky, financially benefitted from his detention or abuse, concealed their legal liability, or was involved in the criminal conspiracy uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, as well on those responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture and gross violations of human rights of whistle-blowers and activists.
Within 120 days of enactment, the Act requires the Departments of State and Treasury to compile, publish, and report on a list of these persons. Listed persons would be ineligible for entry into the United States, have any existing visas revoked, and have their financial assets frozen.
The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act points out that no officials have been brought to trial for Magnitsky’s “false arrest or for the crime he had uncovered,” notes “the impunity since his death of state officials he testified against for their involvement in corruption and the carrying out of his repressive persecution,” and says:
“The systematic abuse of Sergei Magnitsky, including his repressive arrest and torture in custody by officers of the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation that Mr. Magnitsky had implicated in the embezzlement of funds from the Russian Treasury and the misappropriation of 3 companies from his client, reflects how deeply the protection of human rights is affected by corruption.”
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