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27.04.2012

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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