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Human Rights Defenders on the Magnitsky Case

Source: (author), 13/09/10

· Human rights activists · Prisoners · Ministry of Internal Affairs · Moscow Region and Moscow

Russia’s human rights defenders and prominent public figures have appealed to the governments of the US and the EU countries in the case of the Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, asking that officials complicit in Magnitsky's death be banned from entering these countries. “The only way to exert influence on people who shun their legal responsibilities is to exercise the legal options available in countries where human rights are more than mere words,” says the appeal, whose signatories include Sergei Kovalev, Marietta Chudakova, Aleksei Simonov, Ludmila Alekseeva and Boris Pustyntsev.

The appeal’s authors point out that American Senator Benjamin L. Cardin demanded in April of this year that the US State Department impose an unlimited ban on issuing US visas to Russian officials complicit in the unlawful detention, torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, reports, quoting Ekho Moskvy.

The list compiled by the Senate's International Affairs Committee comprises 60 names. The appeal signatories ask leaders of the USA and of EU countries to formally refuse entry to anyone whose name is on the list. Furthermore, they believe the list is not definitive, and recommend that it be regularly updated with the names of others who “flagrantly violate the law and persecute innocent people”.

Earlier this month Aleksandr Bastrykin, Chairman of the Investigation Committee in the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, claimed there was no connection between the lawyer's death and actions taken by the officials in charge of his case. He went on to share a recent experience: “I've been to Holland and visited a local pre-trial detention facility. There's a small cell, a toilet, a bathroom, music; the inmates sit around chewing gum and watching TV. Total freedom and democracy. In the evening I asked the prison director: I suppose you don’t have to deal with many complaints about conditions in detention? And he replied: Where can I get a hole that's big enough to bury all those drug addicts and all the other dross? Because, you see, the average salary in Holland is 2000 euros, and each person in detention costs the taxpayer 300 euros a day. To be honest, I'm not happy to be paying taxes either, if they are used for the upkeep of a thug who raped and killed 15 vulnerable girls and boys. He wants to live in comfort, with all the mod cons. And here he is, living at our expense. At the expense of low pensions and child benefits. He wants to live; but what about those murdered girls, didn’t they want to live? That is why every crime that has been committed will be investigated dispassionately and objectively. The same applies to Magnitsky's case. If a crime has been committed, those culpable will be held accountable.”

“Bastrykin's statement is a complete and deliberate lie, a cynical example of what’s called corporate defence. It is the defence mounted by a criminal group – the prosecutor's office – that has been forced onto the defensive,” playwright, director, scriptwriter and artistic director of Theatre.doc, Mikhail Ugarov wrote in his blog on

The Prosecutor General’s Office recently announced a review following a report by its officer Pavel Karpov, which accused the chairman of Hermitage Capital William Browder and the chairman of Firestone Duncan, Jamison Firestone, of slander and of making a knowingly false denunciation. Browder and Firestone had previously accused Karpov and other Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) officials of being responsible for the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky's death in pre-trial detention in November 2009.

At the same time, Magnitsky's former employer Jamison Firestone claims that Russia’s Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliev is not interested in investigating accusations against those MVD officials who were in charge of the case of the Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in pre-trial detention.

On 7 September Nurgaliev told journalists he had no information indicating that Colonel Artem Kuznetsov and Major Pavel Karpov had suddenly become very rich, but that he had “instructed the Department of Internal Security [of the MVD – ed.] to investigate the claim”. Readers will remember that Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died on 16 November 2009 after spending 11 months in pre-trial detention. The lawyer’s colleagues allege he was deliberately driven to his death because he had accused MVD officials of stealing 5,4 billion roubles from the state budget using his client's companies. Magnitsky's death caused a public uproar and resulted in a number of personnel changes in the Federal Prison Agency. However, a legal investigation into Magnitsky's death was only initiated after President Medvedev had given a direct order to do so, and so far has not produced any tangible results. An investigation into the causes of Magnitsky's death concluded that he had received inadequate medical treatment in the pre-trial detention centre.


Rights in Russia,
14 Sep 2010, 11:50