Russians press Congress to ditch human rights bill
A photo Hermitage Capital Management and taken on December 29, 2006 shows Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in Moscow. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
July 12th, 2012
04:23 PM ET

Russians press Congress to ditch human rights bill

By Jill Dougherty

A delegation of Russian senators is in Washington this week in a last-ditch lobbying attempt to persuade their fellow legislators not to pass a bill that would ban Russian officials who violate human rights from visiting the United States and freeze their assets.

The legislation, dubbed the Magnitsky Bill, was named in honor of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer working for a major investment company in Moscow, Hermitage Capital Management, who was arrested and died in jail.

Even as the bill moves closer to passage, the Russian legislators, in a news conference at the Russian Embassy, called it political and warned the bill would damage relations between the two countries "for years to come."

The four senators handed out briefing-book-thick copies of the results of a preliminary parliamentary investigation into the company for which Magnitsky worked and into the circumstances of his November 2009 death.

Inside were photocopies of documents as well as a translation of the forensic medical examination report describing the injuries Magnitsky suffered before his death.

Vitaly Malkin, a member of the Senate Committee on International Affairs of the Federation Council, told reporters, "We do acknowledge that at the last stage of his detention in Russia, adequate medical assistance was not provided to Mr. Magnitsky," but Malkin added "We think that it was not done intentionally."

But Malkin also noted that Magnitsky, in his view, was arrested "absolutely legally" since, for many years, he said, Magnitsky provided assistance to the head of Hermitage Capital, William Browder, and was involved in "illegal activities," including fraud and tax evasion.

The Russian senators said, as a result of their investigation, they also have some doubts about the honesty of Russian tax authorities. "We are ready, and we would welcome any international legal assistance, including the assistance of U.S. law enforcement authorities," Malkin said, "in finding out where did this money go, because $230 million was stolen from the Russian budget and we simply do not know where did it go."

The original draft of the Magnitsky Bill targeted Russia but U.S. lawmakers in the Senate have broadened the wording to include human rights violators from around the world.

The bill is being considered even as Congress is preparing to end the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik amendment that enforced economic sanctions on Russia for not allowing Soviet Jews to emigrate. With the collapse of the Soviet Union that no longer was an issue but legislators kept the amendment on the books in order to pressure Russia on other issues.

The Russian delegation is meeting with members of Congress, the Obama administration and the State Department to make its case. They expressed some hope their colleagues would be convinced by their report but, when asked what the reaction has been so far, they said they're being asked "Why did you come so late?"

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Human Rights


    if you are against human rights what does the future look like in your home area

    then ask yourself why human rights has to go just because a couple of uncharge would-be war criminals have not been charged/arained/pre-trial/trial/sentanced/jailed

    why all of the sudden do you want to throw out the rule of law after somthing you don't like does or does not happen at some point in history even if it may or may not have happened in the first place

    I'm not trying to justify bad news or injustices

    July 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  2. Human Rights


    July 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  3. soletme get thisstraight

    So...KaRl RoVe who came up with the legal justification for torture (among other things) while working at the W H has not been arrested here there or anywhere and as a free man has been raising hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars for Mitt Romney just to get his old job back WHAT DO YOU EXPECT what does this have to do with one prison or another where bad stuff may have once happend in the court of public opinion GITMO was there long long before eather of the BuSh administrations

    July 13, 2012 at 10:08 am | Reply
  4. soletme get thisstraight


    July 13, 2012 at 9:54 am | Reply
  5. George Patton

    After the way we Americans torture our political prisoners at Gitmo, just who are we to preach human rights to others? This is getting to be a big fat joke which somehow isn't very funny! Yet those worthless politicians in Washington have the guts to pass a "human rights" bill through Congress!!!

    July 13, 2012 at 1:31 am | Reply
  6. PBL


    Syrian opposition reports 'massacre' in Hama province
    By the CNN Wire Staff

    UPDATED: 09:39 PM EDT 07.12.12

    An opposition group reported Thursday that government forces have carried out a "massacre" in Hama province, killing 220 people there. Most of the killings occurred in the village of Tremseh, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

    July 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Reply
  7. PBL

    WHAT iS ALL THE complaining About–you got plans to b sent to GITMO or are you just planning to become a mass murder then come to the US to prove a point YOU DONT KNOW WHAT HUMAN RIGHTS ARE ENOUGH TO TALK ABOUT IT SO YOUR NERVIOUS do you have a guilt complex

    July 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  8. PBL


    July 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Reply
  9. Andrey

    Like anybody cares: a bunch of lousy politicians struggle with bunch of rotten politicians. Please feel free to decide which is which! American senators do not go too often to Russia – great! If Russian "senators" stop travelling to US and sending there their stolen money: that will be just fine with me! Please pass the bill and declare all the Russian politicians human right violators... let's get it over now!

    July 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Reply
    • Andrey

      P.S. That kind of threat only works while it is a threat!
      US has got already enough laws to deny anybody an entry into the country calling him a human right violator and freeze his assets! Look at Lukashenk – the president of Belorussia: he can not go neither to US no to EU.
      So what it all about!

      July 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Reply
  10. John

    It is our country. Don't do business here if you are a violator of human rights. There is no lecturing only laws in OUR land. If you feel our country is on the wrong track in Afghanistan get involved in the political system and change it. Vote out who is in favor of what you disagree with, if the majority disagree with you and you are unsatisfied with our political process leave the country.

    July 12, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Reply
    • HR Law

      John, calling Russia a huge violator of human rights is like the pot calling the kettle black. The United States is one of the biggest hypocrites when it comes to HR violations. I'm not saying Russia is totally warranted, but it does influence their national interest. Lobbying is lobbying regardless whether it is independent lobbyists or government officials.

      July 13, 2012 at 9:08 am | Reply
  11. YourGodLies

    Americans teaching others about human rights lol looks @ gitmo

    July 12, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Reply
    • PaxHominibus

      You mean the Gitmo that Obama promised to close nearly 4 years ago? The one that's NOW having a multi-Billion dollar makeover? You! Thought that's what you meant. I agree with you 150%. Good post.

      July 12, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Reply
  12. Quigley

    Just where do we Americans come off lecturing the Russians or anyone else on human rights? After all, it is we Americans who are slaughtering people day after day with those ungodly drones and Apache helicoptors in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, not to mention the Politics of Hunger that we'll currently using against a number of countries. Give me a break!

    July 12, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  13. Thebillwillmoveforward

    The bill will move forward...

    Its the right thing at the right time with the right people...

    July 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
    • PaxHominibus

      It's weird! Obama blabs to Medvedev that he's GOING to be re- elected in November [8 MONTHS before the people cast the first vote] Now Putin meets with Obama and looks at him as if he's something he walked in at the dog pound!
      And this creature who nobody's ever heard of is laying down ground rules for America?

      Respect for America [even though there are issues about foreign policy] has hit the skids in the last 4 years.

      July 12, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  14. Thebillwillmoveforward


    July 12, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Reply

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