November 2015

Winners of 2015 Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Awards Announced in London at the Inaugural Ceremony

Лауреаты премии Сергея Магнитского 2015 года

The winners of the 2015 ‘Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Awards’ were announced in London last night:

1) Boris Nemtsov (posthumously and accepted by his daughter Zhanna Nemtsova), Russian opposition leader (Special Award for Campaigning for Democracy);

2) Guy Verhofstadt, Member of European Parliament (Campaigning European Politician Award), co-author of Magnitsky Sanctions Resolution in the European Parliament;

3) Jim McGovern, U.S. Congressman (Campaigning US Politician Award), co-author of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act adopted by the US Congress;

4) The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an anti-corruption and investigative journalism NGO (Outstanding Investigative Journalism Award, accepted by Paul Radu and Roman Anin) who investigated and publicised the transnational money laundering trail from the $230 million theft uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky;

5) Andrew Rettman, European journalist with EU Observer (Outstanding European Coverage of Magnitsky Case Award) who covered political aspects of the Magnitsky case in the EU;

6) James O’Brien, British journalist, television and radio presenter, and a show host on LBC talk station (Outstanding British Coverage of Magnitsky Case Award) who shamed the British government in their weak response to the Magnitsky case;

7) Geoffrey Robertson QC, international lawyer (Outstanding Contribution to Human Rights Law Award), author of publications on Magnitsky sanctions legislation;

8) The Oslo Freedom Forum, a human rights conference platform (Best Human Rights NGO Award, accepted by Thor Halvorssen) who promoted policy debate on Magnitsky sanctions and human rights; and

9) The Hon. Irwin Cotler, former Attorney General and Justice Minister of Canada (Outstanding Contribution to Global Magnitsky Campaign), author of the Magnitsky bill in the Canadian Parliament, and chair of the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Inter-Parliamentary Group.

Winners of 2015 Magnitsky Human Rights Awards

The organising committee of the Global Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Awards this year consists of activists from major international organizations, including Transparency International, The Henry Jackson Society, Fair Trials International, the Central and Eastern European Council of Canada, and the British Parliament’s All-Party Group on Anti-Corruption.

The Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Awards, a newly-launched international human rights prize, are advanced by the Magnitsky family as a “beacon of support” for all those who fight injustice around the world and promoted by the Justice for Magnitsky Campaign.

Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer, uncovered the largest publicly-known corruption case in Russia involving the theft of $230 million, and testified about it naming complicit officials. He was arrested by some of the implicated officials, held for 358 days in pre-trial detention in torturous conditions, and killed in Russian police custody on 16 November 2009.

November 2015

U.S. Senator Rubio Calls for Adoption of Global Magnitsky, Honouring Magnitsky’s Anniversary

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

Senator Rubio has called to intensify U.S. sanctions on those responsible for the murder of Sergei Magnitsky and the assassination of Boris Nemtsov. Senator shared his thoughts and prayers with the family and colleagues of Sergei Magnitsky who was killed six years ago at the age of 37 in Russian police custody after exposing the largest publicly known tax refund corruption case in Russian history. Senator Rubio also called on the Senate to pass the Global Magnitsky bill to stand up to corruption and human rights abuses.

U.S. Senator Rubio’s statement on the 6th anniversary of death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky:

“Today marks the 6th anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s murder at the hands of Russian officials. Sergei was detained and tortured for over a year after exposing Russian government corruption. The anniversary of his brutal murder reminds us that governments will go to great lengths to hide their corrupt practices, even take an innocent man’s life. Unfortunately, the Russian officials who are responsible for Sergei’s murder remain at-large. The U.S. should intensify efforts to implement the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 to bring to justice the individuals responsible for Sergei’s death as well as other Russian human rights violators, such as those involved in the brutal assassination earlier this year of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.

In honor of Sergei’s memory, the Senate should pass the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act which would impose financial and visa sanctions on individuals responsible to human rights abuses and corrupt government officials around the world. The United States should not allow these criminals access to our country or financial institutions.

My thoughts and prayers are with Sergei’s family and friends today as they remember a man who died for trying to expose the corrupt practices of the Russian government. The United States stands by the Russian people on this sad day and will continue to support their efforts to ensure their leaders respect the rule of law.”

November 2015

Boris Nemtsov Receives 2015 Sergei Magnitsky Award Poshumously

Zhanna Nemtsova receives her father’s award at the ceremony in London

Boris Nemtsov, the Russian politician, assassinated near the Kremlin in late February this year, was posthumously awarded the Sergei Magnitsky 2015 Human Rights Prize for Democracy. The prize was received by his daughter Zhanna.

Winner of 2015 Sergei Magnitsky Award for Campaigning for Democracy: (Posthumously) Boris Nemtsov.

Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition leader, winner of the Sergei Magnitsky’s Campaigning for Democracy Award, was a friend of the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky campaign. Boris was one of the strongest voices advocating for the U.S. Magnitsky Act and the implementation of Magnitsky sanctions in Europe, calling them “the most powerful instrument of pressure on killers and cleptocrats.” (see at 27 min of Youtube video of Nemtsov’s interview.

On 27 February 2015, just two days before he was planning to lead on 1 March 2015 the “March Spring,” a large anti-Putin demonstration in Moscow to protest against the Russian war against Ukraine, and three hours after his live appearance at an independent radio station calling for his supporters to join him, Boris Nemtsov was assassinated next to the Kremlin.

In his last live interview, Boris Nemtsov stated his belief that a large showing of people at the demonstration he was planning to lead, could bring a political change in Russia. He said: “If many people come to demonstrate, this will bring change. This march could be a turnaround point. It could make Kremlin sober. And gradually we will be able to achieve a change in the political course.” (see at 44 min. Youtube video).

The Sergei Magnitsky’s Award for Campaigning for Democracy was received by Nemtsov’s daughter, Zhanna, and presented by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of the longest serving political prisoners in modern Russia.

November 2015

On 6th anniversary of Magnitsky’s death, Photo of Boris Nemtsov Calling for Justice is Published

Boris Nemtsov calling for Justice for Sergei Magnitsky. Photo published by Ludmila Volkova on the 6th anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s death
“Nemtsov Most”

263d day after the murder of Boris Nemtsov is marked on the 6th anniversary of Magnitsky’s death

November 2015

US Criticizes Russian Justice on Lawyer Death Anniversary

Global Post. Agence France-Presse on Nov 13, 2015 @ 9:24 PM

The United States lamented Russia’s failure Friday to punish those responsible for the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, on the sixth anniversary of his murky demise in a Moscow jail.

Magnitsky died aged 37 after trying to expose the alleged embezzlement from investment fund Hermitage Capital of $230 million by figures linked to Russian political circles.

He was arrested in 2008 and died in prison in 2009 of an untreated illness that Russia’s own presidential human rights council said was “provoked by beating.”

The wider Hermitage case is now a notorious international scandal, but six years later no-one in Russia has been held to account for Magnitsky’s death.

“The anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s death is a reminder of the human cost of injustice,” US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said.

“Those responsible for his unjust imprisonment and wrongful death remain free, despite widely publicized and credible evidence of their guilt,” he said.

“We salute Sergei Magnitsky’s memory and those who work to uncover corruption and promote human rights in Russia, despite official intimidation and harassment.

“We will continue to fully support the efforts of those who seek to bring these individuals to justice, including through implementation of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.”

The Magnitsky Act targets named Russian individuals accused of a role in the Hermitage scandal, prohibiting them from traveling to the United States or using US banks.

June 2015

Canada needs a ‘Magnitsky’ law to take on human-rights violators

The Globe and Mail

In March, the House of Commons unanimously adopted my motion calling for sanctions against individual human-rights violators, including those complicit in the 2009 detention, torture and murder of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky. With just weeks until Parliament rises for the summer, however, the government is running out of time to act upon that expression of laudable intent.

Mr. Magnitsky was a Moscow lawyer who uncovered widespread corruption on the part of Russian officials. After testifying against them, he was jailed, tortured and killed in prison in 2009, before being posthumously convicted – in a Kafkaesque coverup – of the very fraud he had exposed.

Since his death, his former employer, Bill Browder, has been advocating for sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes against those responsible, who would otherwise not be held to account in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Indeed, many have been rewarded by President Putin for their criminality.

Yet because corrupt Russian officials tend to store and spend the proceeds of their crimes beyond the country’s borders – depositing their money in foreign banks, vacationing at foreign resorts, sending their children to foreign schools – the international community has the power to impose tangible consequences by curtailing their ability to travel and trade around the world.

This approach has notably won the endorsement of the European Parliament and legislatures in Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, the United States and now Canada. As yet, however, only the United States has taken action: Congress imposed sanctions against Mr. Magnitsky’s tormentors in 2012, and is currently studying a new bill that would expand those sanctions to cover human-rights violators generally.

The motion adopted by Canadian MPs – and more recently by the Senate, as well – both specifically endorses sanctions in the Magnitsky case, and urges the government to “explore sanctions as appropriate against any foreign nationals responsible for violations of internationally recognized human rights in a foreign country, when authorities in that country are unable or unwilling to conduct a thorough, independent and objective investigation of the violations.”

Accordingly, Tuesday, I introduced a private member’s bill that would explicitly authorize the Canadian government to impose visa bans and asset freezes on human-rights violators. Although my bill is unlikely to be adopted before the House rises, I offer it as a template for how the motion passed by the House and the Senate could be enacted in law. There is still time for the government to either take over my bill or to introduce similar legislation of its own, out of respect for the unanimous will of Canadian MPs, and out of solidarity with the victims of human-rights violations in Russia and around the world.

These victims – and the courageous activists who stand up to rights-violating regimes at great personal risk – were on my mind when I rose Tuesday in the House to present my legislation. In particular, I could almost feel the presence of my late friend Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the democratic Russian opposition who was murdered near the Kremlin earlier this year.

In 2012, I joined him in Ottawa to condemn the impunity, corruption and human-rights violations of the Putin regime, of which the Magnitsky tragedy is a case study, and to issue an urgent appeal for global Magnitsky legislation.

Mr. Nemtsov supported the sanctions that Canada has rightly imposed in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, although there remain key Russian officials who have been spared Canadian sanctions. It is time, however, for us to treat Russian domestic human-rights violations as seriously as we do violations of political independence and territorial integrity. Had we acted in 2012 against Russian violations, for example, we might have helped deter the external aggression that followed.

Ultimately, countries that value human rights and the rule of law must use the measures at our disposal to hold violators to account and discourage future violations. Otherwise, we are exposed as having far less concern for these noble principles than our usual rhetoric – including a motion unanimously adopted by the House of Commons – would suggest.

Irwin Cotler is the Liberal MP for Mount Royal, former justice minister and attorney-general of Canada, and professor of law emeritus at McGill University. He is chairman of the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Inter-Parliamentary Group.

June 2015


Irwin Cotler

Government declared support for human rights sanctions in March, but has yet to take action

MP Irwin Cotler today introduced the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (C-689), which would allow for the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes against human rights violators. In March, the House of Commons unanimously endorsed a motion by Cotler calling for such sanctions, and a similar motion introduced by Sen. Raynell Andreychuk passed the Senate in May, but the government has yet to heed Parliament’s call.

“I was very encouraged when members of all parties came together earlier this spring to support these critical measures,” said Cotler, the Liberal Critic for Rights and Freedoms and International Justice. “But it is deeply disappointing that the government still hasn’t moved forward with legislation.”

Magnitsky laws are named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who blew the whistle on large-scale tax fraud committed by Russian officials before being detained, tortured, and killed in prison in 2009. He was posthumously convicted, in a Kafkaesque cover-up, of the very corruption he had exposed.

Continued Cotler: “In Ottawa in 2012, I stood with Boris Nemtsov, the leader of Russia’s democratic opposition, to call for Magnitsky legislation; Boris was murdered in February. In 2013, I stood in Ottawa with Sergei Magnitsky’s last employer, Bill Browder, and with another Russian opposition leader, Vladimir Kara Murza, to make the same appeal; Bill has been repeatedly threatened, and Vladimir is recovering from an apparent poisoning. What else has to happen before Canada and other members of the international community take action commensurate with the seriousness of the situation?”

Resolutions calling for Magnitsky sanctions have been passed by the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and legislatures in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, the United States, and Canada. When the Canadian motion passed the House, MPs and Senators from all parties – including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Anderson – held a joint press conference to mark the occasion. Thus far, however, only the U.S. has moved from words to deeds.

“There is still time for the government to either take over my bill or pass similar legislation of its own,” urged Cotler, “both out of respect for the will of Parliament, and out of solidarity with the victims of human rights violations – and those who struggle valiantly on their behalf – in Russia and around the world.”

January 2015

Russian undressing

Fortune Magazine

Investor Bill Browder pulls back the curtain on Putin’s culture of corruption.

The jacket note for Bill Browder’s Red Notice calls it “a real-life thriller about an American-born financier in the Wild East of Russia, the murder of his principled young attorney, and his dangerous mission to expose the people responsible in the Kremlin.”

The description is accurate as far as it goes. Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, uncovered a $230 million fraud perpetrated by Russian government officials against one of Browder’s companies in 2008. He was jailed after disclosing the fraud and subsequently killed while in prison. Browder, who as founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management had made and lost billions of dollars in Russia, has devoted himself since Magnitsky’s death to exposing corruption and human rights abuses in Russia. For his efforts, Browder now finds himself subject to extradition to Russia, where the government has convicted him in absentia of tax evasion and sentenced him to nine years in prison.

But that’s only part of the story. The first half of Red Notice traces Browder’s improbable journey from prep-school washout through college, business school, and a series of consulting and Wall Street jobs before becoming Russia’s largest foreign investor.

The son of left-leaning academics and grandson of Earl Browder—the labor organizer and head of the American Communist Party—Bill Browder rebelled by becoming a capitalist. He recounts his early training through a series of pitch-perfect descriptions of J.P. Morgan recruiters, Boston Consulting Group managers, Salomon traders, and dealmakers such as Robert Maxwell, Ron Burkle, and Edmond Safra.

Whether consulting for a Polish bus company, advising a Murmansk fishing fleet, or finding undervalued, newly privatized companies in Russia, Browder encounters real-life opportunities and absurdities that read better than fiction.

Read More →

January 2015

Putin’s torturers: Blowing the whistle on government cronies who stole Russia’s riches

Mail on Sunday

The riches of the former Soviet Union seemed an incredible opportunity for financiers such as Bill Browder, and so it proved when he moved to the ‘Wild East’ and found he needed bodyguards and armoured cars.

But it was when he crossed the henchmen of Russian president Vladimir Putin that the trouble really started, and Browder was thrown into a terrifying world of state-sanctioned criminality. He survived, but his loyal colleague, Sergei Magnitsky, was to suffer an horrific fate at the hands of the Kremlin’s goons, as Browder recalls in this gripping first extract of his extraordinary new book…

The terrifying message arrived on my voicemail shortly after midnight on November 14, 2009. It had been a trying day. My lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was being held in a hellish Russian prison on trumped-up tax-evasion charges, and he had endured another tortuous day in court.

Sergei was seriously ill with pancreatitis and gallstones, but the police were unsympathetic and had chained him to a radiator in a corridor at the court building. When he finally entered the courtroom itself, the judge treated him with equal contempt, dismissing every one of his complaints about the mistreatment he’d endured for months.

I was a world away in London, but I was desperately worried. Another Russian lawyer of mine, who was safe with me in the UK, had recently received a series of menacing texts. ‘What’s worse, prison or death?’ one said. Another was a quote from The Godfather: ‘History has taught us that you can kill anyone.’

I’d shared these with officers from Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism unit, who traced the texts to an unregistered number in Russia. This was very disturbing. The only people with access to unregistered Russian numbers were the secret police, the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation), who’d been after me for years. The FSB doesn’t just issue arrest warrants and extradition requests – it dispatches assassins.

But the message I received late that November night was worse than any that had come before. When I listened to that voicemail, I heard a man in the midst of a savage beating. He was screaming and pleading. The recording lasted two minutes and cut off mid-wail. I called everyone I knew. They were all OK. The only person I couldn’t call was Sergei…
Before all these problems in Russia, I was the founder and chief executive of Hermitage Capital Management, the largest investment advisory firm in the Russian stock market. I had left a safe job in the City of London and relocated to Moscow in 1996, when Russia was nicknamed the Wild East.

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