HR4405 references the death of Sergei Magnitsky. The bill seeks to impose sanctions on persons responsible for the detention abuse or death of Sergei Magnitsky, and for other gross violations of human rights in the Russian Federation and for other purposes. Magnitsky who died while in pre-trial detention on tax fraud charges was denied medical treatment after allegedly being beaten by guards in the Russian prison holding him. President Dmitry Medvedev dismissed the number of prison officials over the case. Proponents of the Magnitsky Act say the legislation seeks to help address the issues of graft and crime which has impeded normal trade relations between the US and Russia. However, American University in Moscow senior fellow journalist Martin Sive says he is skeptical about the reasons behind this bill’s introduction.
I agree with the assessments of the US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. Ambassador McFaul rightly advised Congress against approving this legislation. This legislation is trying to break a nut with a sledge hammer, it’s an extraordinary overreaction. S.M. was a lawyer who certainly died in suspicious circumstances in Russian jail, but there have been investigations in Russia into his death including by an official human rights monitoring organization of the Russian government. Four generals of the Russian interior ministry have been fired and a doctor who should have treated Mr. M. and didn’t do so may be facing criminal charges of negligence. There will be other serious investigations involved, but this is not a justification for passing legislation the likes of which was never passed against Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, China, Zaire or Indonesia. This is an extreme overreaction. And Russia is an important world power, with a world power military and also potentially extremely important energy partner of the US. It’s the height of irresponsibility as well as ignorance to push this legislation further. It’s very unfair legislation.
Sive says he’s of one opinion and his colleagues are at the think-tank, they feel this bill is unfairly targeting Russia.
I don’t see equivalence to the M. bill being pitched against Sudan for example, which has an abominable human rights record at the moment. There are countries around the world which have much worse human records than Russia, infinitely worse ones. The US not only did business with them, we supplied weaponry to them. There was a virtual genocide in Indonesia of almost a million ethnic Chinese people in 1966-67. But for the next 30 years the US still regarded President Sukarno’s regime in Indonesia as its prime ally in South East Asia. We armed it to the hilt, we gave great sums of aid and Sukarno was notorious for stealing everything in sight and impoverishing his own people. For 30 years the U.S. performed in the same cynical way dealing with Zaire, so it’s the height of a double standard. And a very cynical double standard to apply this in Russia in the case of the death of a single unfortunate individual where, the Russian authorities themselves, whether half-heartedly or seriously, have certainly been seen to make significant efforts to investigate the circumstances.
The Obama Administration also opposes the Magnitsky Bill. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul called it redundant because of the State Department, which has already issued visa restrictions for the officials it believes are guilty in this case.