Russian anger at US Senate passing of Magnitsky Bill

Russian anger at US Senate passing of Magnitsky Bill

Russian anger at US Senate passing of Magnitsky Bill

The US Senate yesterday repealed the Jackson-Vanic Amendment, a Cold War-imposed trade sanction, replacing it with the Magnitsky Bill, named for a Russian lawyer who died in custody.

The new law grants the normalisation of trade relations between the US, Russia and Moldova, but has a sting in its tail which has infuriated Russian officials. It blacklists on human rights grounds all Russian nationals linked to the death in custody of Magnitsky, as well as others involved in gross human rights violations, preventing them from using the USA’s banking system or entering the country.

The trade-restrictive Jackson-Vanic Amendment, passed 38 years ago, was inaugurated to dissuade Russia from preventing the emigration of Russian Jews and members of other religious minority groups, and was widely considered as outdated since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Its replacement by the human rights-aimed Magnitsky Bill sends an unmistakable message to Russia’s rulers.

Coupling the relaxation in trade laws with the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act is being taken by Russia as an interference in its internal affairs, with a tough response expected. Tax lawyer Sergai Magnitsky, whilst working at a Moscow-based American law firm, discovered a massive tax fraud involving Russian tax officials and police using stolen documents and masterminded by an American.

When he confronted the fraudsters, he was arrested, imprisoned and subsequently died while in pre-trial custody. According to Senator John McCain, in passing the new law, the USA is fulfilling a moral obligation to speak out, not just in Magnitsky’s memory but for the many others who are still unjustly imprisoned in Russian jails.

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