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Congress adopts global Magnitsky human rights act

The U.S. Congress has voted to give the President the power to punish human rights violators and corrupt leaders from any country by banning them from travel to the United States and freezing their U.S. assets.

The Senate adopted the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act last week in a 92-7 vote. The law was tacked onto a bigger U.S. defense bill.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law soon. The House of Representatives passed the bill earlier this month.

The new law expands the Magnitsky Act adopted in 2012. The Magnitsky Act was aimed at Russian officials and others involved in the detention or death of Sergei Magnitsky, or anyone who tried to cover it up.

Magnisky was a Russian lawyer who exposed a $230 million tax fraud.

He died in a Moscow jail in 2009 at age 36. His family and former client, William Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital, said Magnitsky was tortured and denied medical care.

The Russian government said he died of natural causes.

So far, 39 individuals including Russian government officials and alleged mobsters have been sanctioned through the Magnistsky Act.

The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act gives the President power to impose visa bans and  freeze U.S. assets against anyone who suppresses basic human rights or targets whistleblowers exposing corruption.

The bill targets any foreign citizen “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country.”

The President can also impose sanctions on foreign officials engaged in “significant corruption, including the expropriation of private or public assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, bribery, or the facilitation or transfer of the proceeds of corruption to foreign jurisdictions.”


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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