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Human Rights Defenders and Artists Call for Blacklisting of Officials Linked to Jailing of Khodorkovsky

Source: (info), 19/09/11

· Human Rights Defenders · Yukos Affair · Political Prisoners

A group of Russian politicians, human rights defenders and figures from the arts have called on the US Senate to apply sanctions similar to those used in the case of Sergei Magnitsky against Russian officials complicit in the Yukos affair.

As Kommersant writes, the list of 305 officials presented to the Senate includes Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, head of the Investigative Committee Aleksandr Bastrykin, chair of Moscow City Court Olga Egorova, and the names of investigators, prosecutors and judges in all the prosecutions related to the Yukos affair. The letter’s authors ask that the officials named in the list should be denied US entry visas and the freezing of any foreign bank accounts they may possess.

Among the signatories of the letter are the co-chairs of the Party of National Freedom, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov, human rights defenders Ludmila Alekseeva and Lev Ponomarev, film director Eldar Ryazanov, and the celebrated Russian actresses Liya Akhedzhakova and Natalya Fateeva. The text of the letter states: “This letter is an expression of support for S.1039, the ‘Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011’, currently pending before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.” The letter points out that the case of Magnitsky is not the only one of its kind in Russia: “Egregious abuses of human rights are, unfortunately, common in today’s Russia.”

As reports, the list includes the names of three deputies of the Prosecutor General (Viktor Grin, Yury Biriuikov and Aleksandr Zvyagintsev), prosecutors in the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev (Dmitry Shokhin, Valery Lakhtin and Gulchehra Ibragimova), several dozen investigators (headed by special investigator Stanislav Kerimov who was the first to begin the Yukos investigation), judges of the Basmanny, Khamovnichesky, Meshchansky district courts, Moscow city court and other courts where the Yukos trials took place, and also 13 judges of the Supreme Court. The list includes Eduard Regbun, the receiver appointed to run Yukos and oversee the company’s bankruptcy.

As notes, the list does not include the names of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or deputy prime minister Igor Sechin, the two men who are considered to have masterminded the Yukos affair. Nina Katerli, a writer and human rights defender from St. Petersburg, and one of the signatories of the letter, says: “The presence of politicians in the list, in particular those who are at the head of government, would significantly complicate the confirmation of the list by the US State Department. Therefore we have focused on concrete executors. The list has been submitted to the Senate and if the bill is passed we shall no doubt insist that it is applied to those who have prosecuted the Yukos cases.” Vladimir Ryzhkov told Kommersant: "I think the likelihood that the list will be approved is 70 percent.”

According to Lev Ponomarev, human rights defenders might set up a special group of experts to draw up new lists of officials guilty of violating human rights on the territory of the Russian Federation. These lists, after confirmation, would be sent to the US State Department. Over the past weekend Evgeniya Chirikova, leader of the defenders of Khimki Forest, met with US senators. She also handed the Senate a list of officials whom the environmental activists consider guilty of felling the forest. This list includes Vladimir Putin, deputy premier Sergei Ivanov, minister of transport Igor Levitin, governor of Moscow Region Boris Gromov, and a dozen other officials.

A government source told Kommersant that he as yet knew nothing about the letter of human rights defenders. In his opinion it would bring nothing but a new war of lists. “Russia simply will be forced to react in a corresponding manner,” the source said. “Initiatives like this can only be cause of regret. Although they yet again demonstrate whose side the so-called human rights defenders are really on, and whose money they are working for.”

Earlier, the Russian authorities had promised to respond in kind to possible sanctions against officials complicit in the Magnitsky case. It was thought that the bank accounts would be blocked and entry into Russia forbidden for those involved in the prosecutions of the cases of Viktor But and Konstantin Yaroshenko. One of these is being prosecuted in the United States on charges of trading in arms; the other has sentenced to 20 years in prison for drug smuggling.

US bill S.1039 sets out visa and financial sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in their countries. For these individuals, entry into the US can be banned and bank accounts they may have in the US frozen. In proposing the bill, Senator Benjamin Cardin did not hide the fact that in the first case the bill was designed to punish those responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer working with the Hermitage Capital investment fund. Senator Cardin included 60 Russian officials from law enforcement bodies in the black list for the Sergei Magnitsky case. The bill also proposes that once a year the US State Department can add new names to the list. The bill has already been introduced to the Senate, although the date of its consideration is not yet known.