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.