6 December 2012, 17:29

US Senate to vote on Magnitsky Act in several hours

US Senate to vote on Magnitsky Act in several hours

A vote on the controversial anti-Russian “Magnitsky List” will begin in the US Senate in a matter of hours.

On Thursday, American senators agreed to stop debates on the proposed draft law to go on with the voting.

They also confirmed that the bill, banning officials who could face visa sanctions in connection with Magnitsky's death, wouldn’t be amended after it had been given a green light by the House of Representatives.

If approved, the legislation will be passed on to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.

Senate Magnitsky vote moved to Thursday

The U.S. Senate is to vote on the Magnitsky Act and the bill to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment on Thursday according to their official website.

The discussions concerning both pieces of legislation began on Wednesday.

The so-called Magnitsky Act contains a list of Russian officials, who, in the opinion of the United States, were involved in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison.

In Russia, he was charged with tax evasion and died because he did not receive medical care on time.

The case is still under investigation.

Moscow opposed the linkage of trade issues with the case of Sergei Magnitsky, and warned that the adoption of this law will negatively affect Russian-US relations.

US debate begins on Magnitsky Act

The U.S. Senate has begun consideration of the so-called "Magnitsky Act" which provides for visa and financial sanctions against a number of Russian citizens.

The Bill was prepared in connection with the abolition of the discriminatory Jackson-Vanik Amendment.

The list consists of Russian officials who, according to the U.S., were involved in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison.

In Russia, he was charged with tax evasion and died because he did not receive medical care on time.

The case is still under investigation.

Moscow opposed the linkage of trade issues with the case of Sergei Magnitsky, and warned that the adoption of this law will negatively affect Russian-US relations.

Tough version of Magnitsky Bill: Russia pledges harsh reaction

The US Senate on Wednesday is expected to approve a harsher version of the combined Magnitsky-Jackson-Vanik trade and human rights bill that would impose sanctions on Russia although sanctions for human rights abuse should be applied globally. Moscow already called the potential law “an absolutely unfriendly and provocative step” and pledged counteractions.

The bill imposes sanctions on Russian officials allegedly linked to the 2009 death of the Hermitage Group lawyer Sergey Magnitsky in a pre-trial detention center where he was put on tax evasion charges. On the other hand, it grants most favored nation status to Russia abolishing trade restrictions set by the Jackson-Vanik amendment.

The bill’s text is the same as that earlier passed by the House of Representatives.

However, Senators have designed a milder version of the bill envisaging punishment for human rights violators anywhere in the world. It's not clear which version will be considered. Senators claim that a milder version would make it impossible to cancel the JV amendment by the end of the year so they will consider a tougher one.

The document seems illogical but it’s not surprising. The US still believes it can impose its will on all countries, says expert from the Higher School of Economics Leonid Polyakov.

"The fact that the JV amendment still exists, proves that the US still views itself as a superpower which has a holy right to ban something to somebody. It’s neither logic nor political rationale but pure – “we want to do it and will do it” principle. So, the US agreed to cancel the amendment but imposed new sanctions instead."

In 1974, Congress adopted a provision which was a response to the Soviet Union's "diploma taxes" levied on Jews attempting to move to Israel. The tax they had to pay for education they obtained in the USSR was extremely high and not everyone could afford it.

The amendment is still formally valid though the US has put a moratorium on it since 1989.

And finally the congressmen are ready to cancel the amendment although binding it with the Magnitsky law.

Earlier, the EU attempted to adopt a similar law but Russia kept saying that a probe into Magnitsky’s death is Russia’s domestic matter.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says the approval of the bill will definitely worsen bilateral relations and pledges harsh counteractions. One of them could be an economic response, says Dr. Vilen Ivanov

"This might be some trade restrictions as the US is interested in the Russian market so it could affect US businessmen but would hardly change anything."

Taking into account that the US attempts to be the global ruler it would be hard to change a decision approved by the Congress or it may take at least 30 years, only if harsh countermeasures don’t boost the process.

Senate to consider Magnitsky bill later

The US Senate has delayed the consideration of the combined Magnitsky-Jackson-Vanik trade and human rights bill for a couple of hours.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the bill will be considered post 11 pm Moscow time Wednesday. Earlier, the Senate planned to review the document at 7 pm Moscow time.

The bill envisage sanctions on Russian officials allegedly linked to the 2009 death of the Hermitage Group lawyer Sergey Magnitsky in a pre-trial detention center as well as other human rights violators.

Adoption of “Magnitsky List” will prove unfriendly, provocative move – MFA

The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned that the adoption by the US Senate of what is known as the “Magnitsky List” will prove an unfriendly and provocative move.

Konstantin Dolgov, Foreign Ministry’s special envoy for human rights, democracy and rule of law, said at a briefing Wednesday that Moscow’s stand on the “Magnitsky List” remained unaltered.

“We have already shared our take on this move,” he said, adding it was an “unfriendly, provocative, unilateral measure, which undoubtedly aims at violating the rights of a certain group of Russian nationals.” He pledged an “adequate response,” should the bill be passed.

On Wednesday, the US Senate will debate a draft law to grant Russia permanent normal trade relations, which has been coupled with the so-called “Magnitsky List.”

Russia promises more protection of citizens abroad

A briefing on “protection of Russian citizens and compatriots abroad” has kicked off in Moscow.

Voice of Russia’s Polina Chernitsa has quoted Konstantin Dolgov, Foreign Ministry’s special envoy for human rights, democracy and rule of law, as saying that Moscow “was strongly against third-country arrests of Russian nationals on American warrants.”

Mr. Dolgov stressed that the US was regretfully still exercising extraterritorial jurisdiction, Polina Chernitsa reports.

The Russian human rights ombudsman pointed out that Washington was mistreating Russian citizens held in American prisons. For instance, he criticized the conditions of Russian businessman Viktor Bout’s incarceration, saying they were violating international norms.

Mr. Dolgov also said the US had breached the convention on consular relations by denying the Russian diplomatic mission a contact to Maxim Babayev, who was abused by his American foster parents.

Dolgov vowed that Russia was stepping up its efforts to protect the rights of Russian adoptees abroad.

Also speaking at the briefing was Georgy Muradov, deputy director of Russia’s main international cooperation agency, who commented on human rights situation in Baltic states. He said many EU member countries were covering up sweeping human rights violations.

Mr. Dolgov called heroisation of fascism across the EU “a serious violation of international law,” adding that no one had the right to review results of Nuremberg Trials. He said human rights violations in the EU had a “systemic nature.” In the Baltic region, former Soviet republics have long been targeting WW2 veterans, “our compatriots who were fighting the Nazi,” he said.

Konstantin Dolgov also reminded journalists that the case of US secret prisons still remains open in many EU countries, who have failed to prosecute those responsible for illegal imprisonments on their territory.

He underscored that the EU was pledging to safeguard human rights, despite often ignoring even framework bilateral agreements.

Dolgov said Russia was against “selective application of human rights laws,” adding both the EU and OSCE kept their eyes peels only for “what’s happening east of Vienna.”

The Russian human rights envoy also told reporters he is going to meet his EU colleague, Stavros Lambrinidis, in Brussels later today, where he will present the English version of his report on human rights violations in the EU.

Voice of Russia, RIA, AFP, Reuters, Interfax

- Obama should veto Magnitsky Bill

- ‘Finances is where it really hurts the US, and here Russia could do something’

- ‘American lefties dislike Russia because it rejected socialism, righties because, communist or not, it’s still Russia’

- Magnitsky Bill is a manifestation of Congressional politics

- ‘Magnitsky Bill will further jeopardize US-Russian economic ties and backfire against American economy’- US expert

- ‘Russia is first European country that has stated that it rejects Western liberal model for its political and socio-economic development’ – German expert

- ‘Magnitsky Bill is part of an international effort to show Russia in an unfavorable light, and perhaps even delegitimize its leaders’

- Magnitsky Bill is not about democracy, human rights or fighting corruption

- Statement opposing HR 6156, the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012

- The Magnitsky Bill: Sources of America’s Obsession with Russia

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