The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has unanimously approved the introduction of visa sanctions against Russian officials implicated in the death of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky
. According to a statement by Hermitage Capital, the freezing of the officials' foreign assets has also been approved.Heidi Hautala
, chair of the subcommittee on human rights of the European Parliament, commented: “The unanimous passing of the resolution, introducing visa and economic sanctions, by members of the Foreign Affairs Committee witnesses to the unity of support for these measures on the part of all European lawmakers, of all member countries and of all political parties of the European Union. This expression of our common values in defence of human rights and freedoms also confirms that these values are for us not simply 'empty words' and that the principles, established in international conventions prohibiting torture, must be respected by all countries that have signed the Convention,”
, points out, this legislative initiative followed similar measures by lawmakers in the USA who introduced the bill “Justice for Sergei Magnitksy Act of 2010
”. This bill was introduced into Congress on 29 September. “Nearly a year after Sergei’s death, the leading figures in this scheme remain in power in Russia. It has become clear that if we expect any measure of justice in this case, we must act in the United States,” said one of the initiators of the bill, Senator Benjamin Cardin
According to the first version of the document, the bill introduces a visa ban
on entry into the USA and a ban on financial operations conducted by three groups of person: those who were responsible for arresting Magnitsky, the violation of his rights and his death in the pre-trial detention centre; those implicated in the theft of government funds paid in taxes by the Russian companies of Hermitage Capital, and implicated in the illegal seizure of these companies; and those who took part in attempts to hide the circumstances of the illegal detention, torture and death of Magnitsky, and to hide the fact of the criminal seizure of the companies of Hermitage Capital, and other circumstances relating to the theft of government funds.
The bill introduces a ban on issuing visas and on entry to the USA for these persons and members of their families and annuls all their current US visas. The bill also freezes their assets and bans any operations with these assets, whether conducted personally by them, or through intermediaries. The ban on financial operations covers all operations, whether conducted on the territory of the USA or falling under the supervision and jurisdiction of the USA, including all foreign branches of US banks and other financial organizations.
Sergei Magnitsky died in a pre-trial detention centre on 16 November 2009. Not long before his death he uncovered facts of large scale theft from the Russian government of a sum totalling 5,4 billion roubles by members of the law enforcement agencies. Immediately after this he was charged with tax avoidance.