British Government takes first steps to impose Magnitsky sanctions
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has unveiled a new piece of legislation which would ban entry into the UK of foreign nationals who have been involved in torture, murder or other human rights abuses. The legislation was inspired by the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistle-blowing lawyer who was tortured to death in Russian police custody two and a half years ago. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the case of Sergei Magnitsky remains “unresolved, ” and no one has been brought to justice either for his torture and death or for the corruption he had uncovered.
The new legislation was announced by the UK Foreign Office in the 2011 Human Rights and Democracy Report published yesterday (http://fcohrdreport.readandcomment.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Cm-8339.pdf).
“Where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses, the individual will not normally be permitted to enter the United Kingdom, ” said the UK Foreign Office in the report.
Commenting on the problem of access to justice and the rule of law in Russia, the Foreign Office made the following comment on the Magnitsky case:
“In July , the Presidential Council on Human Rights published a report which found that Sergei Magnitsky…had been denied medical treatment and beaten while in detention, contributing directly to his death. Before his arrest, Mr Magnitsky had been working to uncover an alleged tax fraud against the Russian state by certain Russian law-enforcement officials, a number of whom are alleged themselves to have been involved in the investigation and detention of Mr Magnitsky…To date, no one has been held accountable for Mr Magnitsky’s death while in custody of the Russian state.”
The UK initiative to ban human rights offenders came a month after the British Parliament’s Bankbench Committee held a debate on March 7, 2012 discussing whether the British Government should implement visa sanctions and asset freezes on the Russian officials who were involved in the crimes against Sergei Magnitsky. Over 40 MPs from all major political parties voted unanimously in favor of this proposal.
“This is a good first step in the UK. It is important that the British Government now names the names of those banned officials and also freezes their assets as is being proposed in the US. The British government would also be a natural leader to promote these measures in the EU, ” said a Hermitage Capital representative.
The legislative initiative in the UK is the latest breakthrough in the global campaign for justice run by colleagues of the late Mr Magnitsky. Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year Russian lawyer, who had exposed $230 million government corruption, was arrested, tortured and killed in Russian police custody. No one has been prosecuted for this crime, and all law enforcement officials involved have been exonerated. In an unprecedented twist, the Russian government recently launched a posthumous prosecution of Mr Magnitsky himself, the first in Russian legal history.