24 November 2012, 19:45

Magnitsky List: chapter not closed

Magnitsky List: chapter not closed
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The US Senate is not decided on the date of voting on the so-called Magnitsky List yet, allegedly because of too many other matters to attend to. Experts say, however, that US lawmakers have differences over the text of the Magnitsky Bill. Russia has threatened to respond with appropriate measures if the bill is approved. The corresponding statement was made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the course of his meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Sergei Lavrov and Hillary Clinton discussed the Magnitsky issue on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh during their first meeting after the re-election of President Barack Obama. Leaders of Russia and the US reaffirmed their readiness to promote bilateral ties and strengthen cooperation on the international scene and spoke of progress in pursuing successful cooperation in a large number of areas, first of all, economic issues and investment. The Magnitsky List was discussed along with other outstanding issues which include missile defense, adoption, a number of issues of international concern, and the Syrian crisis.

"The Magnitsky List has been on the bilateral agenda for a long time. Hillary Clinton is aware that Russia will respond appropriately. For Washington, the Magnitsky issue is a solved case."

The Magnitsky Bill has already been approved by the House of Representatives. It was put to voting along with a bill to abolish the Jackson-Vanik amendment which hampered trade between Russia and the US. The lawmakers, however, preferred political consideration to economic issues and tied the Jackson-Vanik abolition to the Magnitsky issue. Many Congressmen, including ex presidential candidate Ron Paul, criticized the Magnitsky Bill as a “gross interference” in Russia’s domestic affairs which could only worsen the relations between the two countries.

Russia’s National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said earlier in the week that the United States was trying to solve its internal problems at the expense of other countries.

"If passed, the Magnitsky Bill will pose no threat to the Russian economy or Russian national security. Russia will take moves in response if the bill is signed into law."

According to Nikolai Patrushev, the United States is abolishing the Jackson-Vanik amendment for its own benefit and is trying to push through the Magnitsky Bill because of problems at home.

After sailing through the House of Representatives, the Magnitsky Bill may run into opposition in the Senate, media reports say. A number of Senators are against a tie-up of the two bills saying that the human rights part of the Magnitsky Bill should apply to other countries as well. The current version of the Magnitsky Act denies US entry visas to Russian officials who are believed to be guilty of the death of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and provides for a seizure of their American bank accounts. Voting on the bill is to take place next week.

Moscow has warned that as a response measure it will draw a similar list of US officials implicated in human rights breaches. Vyacheslav Nikonov of the Committee for International Relations, comments.

"The list will include individuals who violated the rights of Russian citizens and citizens of other countries. It could comprise those involved in the torture of Guantanamo prisoners, those who committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, or crimes against humanity on the territory of former Yugoslavia. It’d only be logical to draw the list of people who will be denied entry to Russia and freeze their bank accounts if they happen to be on the territory of the Russian Federation."

According to experts, the Magnitsky Act makes no sense. The US State Department can and is fully exercising its right to deny unwanted individuals entry to the US without explanation. This principle could also apply to those on the Magnitsky List. But for some reason, the US is opting for different methods, which are akin a PR campaign. In the meantime, Moscow investigators are looking into the circumstances surrounding Sergei Magnitsky’s death. The official conclusion is that he died in a Moscow detention prison because he was denied medical help. The trial of the prison’s former deputy warden Dmitry Kratov is still going on. A working group on Magnitsky is functioning at the revamped Human Rights Council. President of the Russian Human Rights Council Mikhail Fedotov has proposed that Russia should require the US to hand over information concerning individuals included in the Magnitsky List.

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