In November 2008, Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was arrested and held for 11 months in one of Russia's harshest pre-trial prisons. He died on November 16, 2009, just a week before the authorities would have been required under Russian law to release him if he were not brought to trial.
An investigation by Russia's Presidential Human Rights Council found that Magnitsky had been severely beaten in prison and members of the Council said his death resulted from the beatings and “torture” by police officials.
But despite widely-publicized, credible evidence of criminal conduct resulting in Mr. Magnitsky's death, Russian authorities failed to bring to justice those responsible.
And for what crime was he so severely punished? Mr. Magnitsky, who worked for a money management company specializing in Russian markets, exposed a case of fraud involving some $230 million. Numerous public figures were implicated in the fraud, including members of the Russian police, judiciary, and tax officials. Magnitsky was later wrongfully and posthumously convicted for the crimes he himself uncovered.
In an effort to bring these individuals to justice, the United States Congress passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. This law aims to hold accountable those responsible for the torture, abuse, and death of Sergey Magnitsky, including by prohibiting their entrance to the United States and their use of the U.S. financial system.
The law also allows the designation of persons responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights against individuals seeking to expose illegal activity in Russia or individuals attempting to exercise, defend, or promote their internationally recognized human rights and freedoms
On February 1, the State Department, in concert with the Treasury Department, submitted to Congress the list of persons who have been determined, based on credible information, to meet the criteria described in that Act. Five new names have been added to that list, for a total of 39.
Over six years after Magnitsky’s death, we remain disturbed by the impunity for this and other violent acts against activists, journalists, and the political opposition, as well as the growing atmosphere of intimidation for those who work to uncover corruption or human rights violations in the Russian Federation.
In honor of Sergey Magnitsky, the United States will continue to fully support the efforts of those who seek to bring these individuals to justice, including through continued implementation of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.