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Congress talks about Magnitsky’s torture and death

Photo of the U.S. Capitol Building (courtesy of Wikipedia)The United States Congress sometimes includes ‘findings’ in laws it adopts. They’re reasons behind a law — a bit of built-in legislative history.

Here are some findings from the Magnitsky Act, legislation we tabbed as the biggest anti-corruption story of 2012.

The findings reflect America’s expectations for the Russian regime, the principles those expectations are based on, and how the regime has fallen short. There’s also encouragement for ‘the people of the Russian Federation’ and beyond.

                                    *     *     *


    (a)  Findings- Congress finds the following:

        (1)  The United States aspires to a mutually beneficial relationship with the Russian Federation based on respect for human rights and the rule of law, and supports the people of the Russian Federation in their efforts to realize their full economic potential and to advance democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

        (2)  The Russian Federation–

            (A)  is a member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe, and the International Monetary Fund;

            (B)  has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations Convention against Corruption; and

            (C)  is bound by the legal obligations set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights.

        (3)  States voluntarily commit themselves to respect obligations and responsibilities through the adoption of international agreements and treaties, which must be observed in good faith in order to maintain the stability of the international order. Human rights are an integral part of international law, and lie at the foundation of the international order. The protection of human rights, therefore, particularly in the case of a country that has incurred obligations to protect human rights under an international agreement to which it is a party, is not left exclusively to the internal affairs of that country.

        (4)  Good governance and anti-corruption measures are instrumental in the protection of human rights and in achieving sustainable economic growth, which benefits both the people of the Russian Federation and the international community through the creation of open and transparent markets.

        (5)  Systemic corruption erodes trust and confidence in democratic institutions, the rule of law, and human rights protections. This is the case when public officials are allowed to abuse their authority with impunity for political or financial gains in collusion with private entities.

        (6)  The Russian nongovernmental organization INDEM has estimated that bribes by individuals and businesses in the Russian Federation amount to hundreds of billions of dollars a year, an increasing share of the country’s gross domestic product.

        (7)  Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky died on November 16, 2009, at the age of 37, in Matrosskaya Tishina Prison in Moscow, Russia, and is survived by a mother, a wife, and 2 sons.

        (8)  On July 6, 2011, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev’s Human Rights Council announced the results of its independent investigation into the death of Sergei Magnitsky. The Human Rights Council concluded that Sergei Magnitsky’s arrest and detention was illegal; he was denied access to justice by the courts and prosecutors of the Russian Federation; he was investigated by the same law enforcement officers whom he had accused of stealing Hermitage Fund companies and illegally obtaining a fraudulent $230,000,000 tax refund; he was denied necessary medical care in custody; he was beaten by 8 guards with rubber batons on the last day of his life; and the ambulance crew that was called to treat him as he was dying was deliberately kept outside of his cell for one hour and 18 minutes until he was dead. The report of the Human Rights Council also states the officials falsified their accounts of what happened to Sergei Magnitsky and, 18 months after his death, no officials had been brought to trial for his false arrest or the crime he uncovered. The impunity continued in April 2012, when Russian authorities dropped criminal charges against Larisa Litvinova, the head doctor at the prison where Magnitsky died.

        (9)  The systematic abuse of Sergei Magnitsky, including his repressive arrest and torture in custody by officers of the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation that Mr. Magnitsky had implicated in the embezzlement of funds from the Russian Treasury and the misappropriation of 3 companies from his client, Hermitage Capital Management, reflects how deeply the protection of human rights is affected by corruption. . . .

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