House of Representatives targets Russia?s human rights offenders

House of Representatives targets Russia?s human rights offenders

House of Representatives targets Russia?s human rights offenders

The present-day human rights debacle in Russia received a well-deserved punch from the USA’s massed senators on Friday when they voted to repeal the outdated 1974 Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions.

Shortly afterwardsm the same senators approved new legislation allowing sanctions against all human rights abusers, thus kicking the ball straight back into Russia’s court. One set of human rights abusers the new law is directed towards are those who sent Sergei Magnitsky, a corruption-fighting lawyer, to his 2009 death in a Russian jail.

Jackson-Vanik, a cornerstone of the Cold War fight against Russia’s disallowing of its Jews from emigrating to Israel, proved a useful tool at the time. Russia now allows Jewish emigration, and Friday’s legislation will allow normal trade relations with the country as a permanent fixture, helping US companies do more business with the former enemy.

However, concerns that Russian respect for human rights has hit an all-time low since Vladimir Putin’s reelection as President suggest that Mr Jackson’s original goals are still well short of fulfillment. During the last year, a raft of anti-freedom of expression laws along with expanded state powers over treason, a reduction of NGOs and a crack-down on demonstrations all suggest Russia is going backwards rather than forwards.

Challenging the Kremlin is again forbidden, demonstrated by harsh prison sentences handed down to the Pussy Riot punk rock band for daring to criticise Putin during a prank performance in a church. Another recent example set to increase fear and intimidation is that of a supposed opposition activist abducted from Kiev by Russian agents and dragged back to Moscow for interrogation.

The new US legislation, named after Mr Magnitsky, allows visa denial and freezing of assets of those involved in crimes against human rights, and is intended to name and shame the Magnitsky case offenders. Russia took the point straight away, immediately vowing tough repercussions against what it believes is unfriendly, provocative legislation.

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