Parliamentarians vote for visa ban bill over Magnitsky death


Parliamentarians from across Europe, Central Asia and North America today voted on Monday to call on parliaments to ban visas and freeze assets for human rights abusers connected to the death of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.

The debate at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Annual Session marks the first time parliamentarians from Russia and the United States were in the same room to debate the measure. Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared nixing the measure a top foreign policy priority, and United States Senator John McCain spoke in support of the resolution. (Watch video of McCain’s speech.)

United States congressional committees approved in June similar legislation introduced by OSCE PA Vice-President Benjamin Cardin.

"I believe that supporting the rule of law is pro-Russia. I believe that defending the innocent and punishing the guilty is pro-Russia, " McCain said at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. "It represents the future that most Russians want for themselves and their country."

Joao Soares (Portugal), former president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, introduced the resolution calling on the 56 nations of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to impose visa sanctions and asset freezes on persons responsible for Sergei Magnitsky’s detention, abuse and death. Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer representing Hermitage Capital Management, a global investment advisory firm, who died in custody after having discovered massive tax fraud committed by Russian government officials.

"Today we as parliamentarians from across the OSCE area sent a clear message of support for democratic values and human rights, " said Soares. "National parliaments must now follow up to enact visa sanctions and travel bans so those who abuse human rights are kept from enjoying the luxuries of foreign travel and investment in our countries."

The resolution also encourages the Russian Federation to issue a public report on Magnitsky’s case and co-operate with international institutions investigating his death.

The resolution supports legislative initiatives moving forward in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the United States, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Poland and resolutions adopted by the European Parliament.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is comprised of 320 parliamentarians from 55 countries spanning, Europe, Central Asia and North America. The Assembly provides a forum for parliamentary diplomacy, monitors elections, and strengthens international cooperation to uphold commitments on political, security, economic, environmental and human rights issues.

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