A bill that cracks down on Russian corruption
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled today to take up the most consequential piece of legislation in years related to Russia: the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. With strong bipartisan support, led by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), the Magnitsky bill is the most serious U.S. effort to address human rights and the rule of law in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The legislation is named after the 37-year-old lawyer who was jailed unjustly in 2008 after exposing a massive tax fraud by officials of Russia’s Interior Ministry. While in jail for almost a year, Magnitsky became ill but was denied medical treatment. In the end he was brutally beaten and left to die.
The proposed legislation is not about one man, however. It is about a Russian system choking on corruption, illegality and abuse. The new law would impose a visa ban and asset freeze against theofficials responsible not only for Magnitsky’s murder but also for other human rights abuses, including against individuals who “expose illegal activity” carried out by Russian officials or who seek to “defend or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms.” This includes journalists who have been murdered when they have dug too close to powerful officials or oligarchs. It includes human rights activists who have been beaten and crippled or killed for exposing the mistreatment of their fellow Russians.
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