Investigation into Sergei Magnitsky’s death again extended


Russian Government extends the case investigation into Sergei Magnitsky’s death, with no new suspects, while his unprecedented posthumous prosecution carries on

The Russ­ian gov­ern­ment has extended, for the 12th time, the inves­ti­ga­tion into the death in jail of whistle-blowing lawyer, Sergei Mag­nit­sky. The pre­vi­ous dead­line, which expired today has now been extended to 24 July 2012: this, despite no new sus­pects being iden­ti­fied and no new charges brought. The inves­ti­ga­tion remains under the con­trol of the same Russ­ian offi­cials who are con­flicted and com­pro­mised by their known roles in Magnitsky’s per­se­cu­tion and the con­ceal­ment of the cor­rup­tion he had uncov­ered. The Russ­ian gov­ern­ment claims that the death of Mag­nit­sky, a healthy 37-year old prior to his deten­tion, where he was kept for 358 days with­out trial in inhu­mane con­di­tions, was “an inevitable event for which no one was to blame”.

“The inves­ti­ga­tion into my son’s death can­not be viewed as impar­tial while it is con­trolled by the same Deputy Gen­eral Pros­e­cu­tor of Rus­sia, Vik­tor Grin, and his sub­or­di­nates who have cov­ered up the par­ties respon­si­ble for the $230 mil­lion theft exposed by my son and for his tor­ture in cus­tody, whilst fail­ing to pro­tect his rights as required by Arti­cle 51 of the Russ­ian Law on Deten­tion, ” said Magnitsky’s mother in her com­plaint to the Russ­ian Inves­tiga­tive Committee.

“It is clear that until the high-ranking law enforce­ment offi­cials respon­si­ble for Magnitsky’s per­se­cu­tion are brought to jus­tice, one can­not call what they are doing a real inves­ti­ga­tion, ” said a Her­mitage Cap­i­tal spokesperson.

The Russ­ian author­i­ties have refused to treat Magnitsky’s case as one of tor­ture and mur­der, which on con­vic­tion carry heavy sen­tences and are sub­ject to a 10 year statute of lim­i­ta­tions. Instead, 58 of the 60 Russ­ian offi­cials on the U.S. Helsinki Com­mis­sion list of those Russ­ian offi­cials involved in the tor­ture and death of Mr Mag­nit­sky,  — and the $230 mil­lion cor­rup­tion he had uncov­ered,  — remain free from lia­bil­ity. When, cer­tain West­ern gov­ern­ments started to intro­duce visa and eco­nomic sanc­tions, the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment merely charged two doc­tors with “inad­ver­tent neg­li­gence”, instead of wil­ful tor­ture. The case against one of these doc­tors was dis­charged under the applic­a­ble statute of lim­i­ta­tions, but not before the non-provision of med­ical care to Mr Mag­nit­sky had been qual­i­fied as “insignificant”.

Russ­ian author­i­ties are also con­tin­u­ing the posthu­mous pros­e­cu­tion of Mr Mag­nit­sky, the first in Russ­ian legal his­tory. The author­i­ties claimed they had to pros­e­cute him after a Con­sti­tu­tional Court rul­ing last July stat­ing that fam­i­lies of deceased defen­dants may apply to reopen crim­i­nal cases with the aim of reha­bil­i­tat­ing the deceased. How­ever, with respect to Mag­nit­sky, the case was opened by the Prosecutor’s Office in the total absence of any appli­ca­tion by the fam­ily and in spite of the fact that the author­i­ties have stated that they have “found no grounds for the reha­bil­i­ta­tion of Mr Mag­nit­sky”. Nonethe­less, the posthu­mous pros­e­cu­tion was given a green light by the Russ­ian courts. It is par­tic­u­larly notable that Russ­ian author­i­ties are pur­su­ing Mr Mag­nit­sky posthu­mously, sin­gling him out from approx­i­mately a thou­sand oth­ers who died with­out trial in Russ­ian jails in the past two years.

“1, 010 peo­ple died in Russ­ian pre-trial deten­tion cen­tres dur­ing 2009 –2011; and 108 peo­ple died in Moscow pre-trial deten­tion cen­tres dur­ing 2010 – 2011. Not a sin­gle per­son has been pros­e­cuted posthu­mously, aside from Sergei Mag­nit­sky. This case against Sergei is pure retal­i­a­tion by Inte­rior Min­istry offi­cials who were caught by Sergei Mag­nit­sky for their roles in the theft of Russ­ian bud­get money.” said a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Her­mitage Capital.

Last month, Magnitsky’s mother, Natalia Mag­nit­skaya, wrote to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court ask­ing for an opin­ion on the legal­ity of a posthu­mous pros­e­cu­tion. The Con­sti­tu­tional Court replied that a case can be opened after a person’s death, but only for the pur­pose of reha­bil­i­tat­ing that per­son. Notwith­stand­ing, the Russ­ian Inte­rior Min­istry and Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office stated that they will put Mr Mag­nit­sky, who has been dead for 2 ½ years, on trial “in any event.”

Ear­lier this month, Ms Mag­nit­skaya filed a com­plaint with the Russ­ian Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee point­ing to its breach of Russia’s com­mit­ments under Arti­cles 7 and 12 of the UN Anti-torture Con­ven­tion and P. 9 of the UNPrin­ci­ples on the Effec­tive Pre­ven­tion and Inves­ti­ga­tion of Extra-legal, Arbi­trary and Sum­mary Exe­cu­tions, which call for “thor­ough, prompt and impar­tial” inves­ti­ga­tion, “ade­quate autopsy”, and “col­lec­tion and analy­sis of all phys­i­cal and doc­u­men­tary evi­dence and state­ments from wit­nesses.” Ms Magnitskaya’s com­plaint out­lined over 50 points of inves­tiga­tive neg­li­gence and irreg­u­lar­i­ties in the case files, point­ing to the state cover-up of the actual cir­cum­stances of Mr Magnitsky’s arrest, ill-treatment and mur­der in cus­tody, as well as a clear motive to kill him as an “incon­ve­nient” witness.

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