And Nobody Dies In Your Prisons?" Russian Fury At U.S. Magnitsky Act
December 19, 2012 "Information
- MOSCOW - Barack Obama has signed into law a bill that
establishes normal trade relations with Russia for the first
time in decades, including the repeal of the 1974 Jackson-Vanick
Amendment that denied "most favored nation" status to
countries restricting human rights.
But the bill also included the so-called “Magnitsky” Act,
which calls for sanctions against any Russian who was
involved in the 2009 death of lawyer and whistleblower
Sergei Magnitsky. Russia is incensed by what it considers
interference with an internal matter.
The editor-in-chief of a well known pro-government
newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, was the first high-profile
individual to be affected. He received a fax on Friday Dec.
14, the same day the law was enacted, informing him that his
visa to the United States had been revoked due to the
provisions of the Magnitsky Act. It is not clear what his
connection to the Magnitsky case is.
What happened to Sergei Magnitsky?
Sergei Magnitsky, the auditor of the Hermitage Capital fund,
was accused of tax evasion. He was held in prison for nearly
a year, during which time he told doctors on several
occasions that he was feeling ill. In spite of his
complaints, he never received medical treatment, and his
health got worse. He died on Nov. 16, 2009 after having
finally been transferred to a medical facility and treated
for chronic hepatitis and diabetes.
According to investigations, he was never given adequate,
modern treatment. His colleagues insisted that the charges
under which he was arrested were trumped up. In addition, he
had claimed to have evidence of massive fraud and a cover-up
attempt facilitated by many people in the Russian
government, and had even testified against several members
of the Kremlin. Outside of Russia, many observers considered
his death anything but accidental.
Before the law came up for a vote in the United States,
members of the Russian parliament tried to convince their
American counterparts that Magnitsky’s arrest and death were
not politically motivated. They sent documents meant to
prove that Magnitsky’s arrest was based on real evidence and
that he then was a victim of medical negligence.
But the American senators were not convinced. Although some
senators thought that the law should apply to government
officials from any country involved in human rights abuses,
the majority felt that the restrictions should apply to
Russia only. President Obama unexpectedly supported this
interpretation. According to sources in the U.S. State
department, this was because the White House decided it
would not be able to avoid a negative reaction from Moscow,
but wanted to prevent negative reactions to the law in China
and the Middle East.
In reaction to the law, Russian President Vladimir Putin
offered a lengthy response: “A person died; it has been
clear for some time that Mr. Magnitsky died in prison. That
is a tragedy that we regret. What, are you telling me that
nobody dies in their prisons? Maybe more people die in their
prisons than in ours. In European prisons? In the U.S.?
Listen, it’s been eight years and Guantanamo is still not
closed; people are held without a trial or an investigation,
like in the Middle Ages; prisoners walk around in chains and
shackles! People who open secret prisons, legalize torture
without investigations! And now these people are now
accusing us of somehow not being good enough!