It’s been eight years since Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian prison after eleven months in police custody. An investigation by Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council determined that Magnitsky had been physically assaulted in prison, and members of the Council said his death resulted from beatings and torture by police officials.
In a statement released on the anniversary of his death, U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert noted that Magnitsky had uncovered a vast tax fraud scheme perpetrated by Russian officials and then was imprisoned by those whose crimes he had uncovered.
Unfortunately, as Ms. Nauert pointed out, Russian authorities have not only failed to hold accountable those responsible for Magnitsky’s death, “in recent months [they] appear to be increasingly propagating conspiracy theories designed to distract attention from the crime.”
In 2012 the United States Congress passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act. That law, known more commonly as the Magnitsky Act, aims to hold to account those responsible for the torture, abuse and death of Sergei 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.
Efforts to implement the law have so far resulted in a list of 35 individuals involved in various aspects of the Magnitsky case. Nine other individuals responsible for gross human rights violations unrelated to Magnitsky’s mistreatment have been sanctioned, including individuals responsible for some of the most serious human rights abuses in recent Russian history, including the extrajudicial killings of journalist Paul Klebnikov, whistleblower Umar Israilov, and whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko.
“In honor of Magnitsky’s extraordinary courage,” said Ms. Nauert, ”we continue to support efforts to hold those responsible for his treatment in prison and subsequent death accountable, including implementation of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.”