Posts Tagged ‘lieberman’
Some of the world’s most powerful leaders come to Frederick County’s doorstep today, with the exception of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It’s strange to think that one man who may have contributed to Putin’s decision to blow off the other seven G-8 countries was sitting in the conference room at The Frederick News-Post on Monday. It was a moment of odd synchronicity
At that editorial board meeting, we wondered aloud if U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin’s authorship and support of the Magnitsky Bill might not have played a part in the Russian leader’s decision.
Foreign-policy analysts have speculated any number of reasons for Putin’s decision, of course. But the Magnitsky Bill is a sore point in Russia-U.S. relations, according a May 10 article in The New York Times.
The bill is named for Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who worked to uncover tax fraud by Russian government officials. Magnitsky was imprisoned for almost a year and suffered abuses while behind bars that led to his death in 2009.
If enacted, his namesake legislation would deny visas to foreign officials accused of human rights violations, as well as freeze any assets they hold in the U.S.
The Obama administration has opposed the bill, but not hard enough for the Russians, according to the Times.
However, the Magnitsky Bill has attracted wide bipartisan support, with the likes of Sens. John McCain, Joe Lieberman and John Kerry on board. Cardin is clearly passionate about it.
“We’re going to pass this bill,” he told us emphatically.
The administration has given up on its lobbying efforts, he said.
“They’re lobbying against it, but they know it’s gonna be passed,” Cardin said. “I think it’s going to be this type of a situation, that the administration will oppose it and then explain, particularly to the Russians … that it was that independent legislature that just happened to put that on there.”
We asked Cardin directly if he believed there was any connection between Putin’s no-show and his bill. “I don’t think so,” Cardin replied.
But overturning it is third on a list of foreign policy objectives Putin has put forward, Cardin said: “He’s gonna lose that one.”
The Magnitsky Bill may have played its part in persuading Putin to make a show of not attending the G-8, but to what extent, we’ll never know. The trade may be worthwhile, however. Russia’s human rights abuses should not stand, and this legislation will go some small way in urging countries that engage in such abuses to clean up their act.
Last week The New York Times published an interesting story articulating, somewhat by mistake, a profound irony at the heart of the Russia’s contentious political debate: both the opposition as well as their tormentor, Vladimir Putin, believe it’s high time to normalize trade relations with the United States. Where they differ, is on what should remain in place as a check on human rights abuses.
Currently Russia is denied Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) due to the antiquated Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold-War-era trade-restricting apparatus put in place to guarantee emigration rights for Soviet Jews. Russia’s opposition thinks repealing Jackson-Vanik-a top priority for President Obama-will deny Putin “a very useful tool” for his “anti-American propaganda machine…helping him to depict the United States as hostile to Russia using outdated Cold War tools to undermine Russia’s international competitiveness,” while Putin and his allies want the lower tariffs and other perks PNTR provides.
But most media coverage failed to capture the most significant position included in the opposition’s statement: they indicate their support for “smarter” sanctions such as the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act to replace JV. In order for one antiquated law to be taken off the books, they are asking for a more modern one to take its place: legislation meant to promote human rights in Russia that is named for the anti-corruption lawyer who died in a Russian prison two years ago after being denied medical care. More importantly, the new legislation specifically targets individual bureaucrats who have been accused of human rights abuses and corruption in a high effective manner, leaving all other normal Russian citizens the full
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Four more senators joined the opposition to repealing the Jackson-Vanik trade sanctions law against Russia on Friday, unless that repeal is accompanied by a new law specifically targeting human rights violators inside the Russian government.
Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) wrote a letter Friday to Senate Finance Committee heads Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to let them know that they oppose Baucus’s effort to repeal the 1974 Jackson-Vanik law unless it is replaced with the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011 — legislation meant to promote human rights in Russia that is named for the anti-corruption lawyer who died in a Russian prison, after allegedly being tortured, two years ago.
Without repeal of the Jackson-Vanik law, U.S. businesses can’t take full advantage of Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, but the senators believe that the Magnitsky bill is needed to ensure the Russian government is not let off the hook for their deteriorating record on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
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European leaders could honour the memory of Russian reformer Yelena Bonner by helping activists confront this corrupt cabal.
The death on Saturday of Yelena Bonner, widow of Andrei Sakharov, will be lamented across Russia. Her trenchant criticisms of Vladimir Putin’s autocracy – she was the first signatory of the “Putin Must Go” manifesto last March – was echoing as recently as last Thursday at a conference of reformists in Moscow.
Whether her death will have any effect on the decline in democracy in her beloved Russia may be discovered this week.
Russia’s justice minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, is the puppet who will announce this week whether or not the Putin regime will allow any opposition parties to put up candidates in December’s parliamentary elections and the presidential poll next March.
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As dictators fall in the Middle East and even China’s leaders panic at the word “Jasmine,” a question arises: What about Russia? Is Vladimir Putin’s regime immune to this fourth wave of democratic pressures?
It’s a safe bet that folks in Putin’s inner circle are wondering the same thing. Only 43 percent of Russians surveyed say that they would vote for Putin’s ruling party, United Russia, in the parliamentary elections scheduled for December, down from 56 percent in 2009. People are angry about rampant corruption at the highest levels and about the unsolved murders of journalists and others who probe too deeply. A think tank close to United Russia argues that the government is suffering a “crisis of legitimacy.”
That the public mood is souring during an election season presents some stark choices to Putin and to the United States. Putin could respond by providing some outlet for discontent, allowing more room for a political opposition that he has squeezed almost into oblivion. A new political party led by respected Russian political figures Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Vladimir Milov and Vladimir Ryzhkov applied last month to register to run in the December elections. If Putin is smart, he’ll let them run. They can’t win, at least this time around, against the government apparatus. But Putin’s regime could claim greater legitimacy if a genuine liberal opposition were given a chance to compete.
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Earlier today, Republican Rep. Peter Roskam, deputy whip in the House, put out a statement signaling his support for the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act.
“As the Obama administration continues its efforts to ‘reset’ relations with Russia, the United States Congress can and must press for progress on democracy and rule of law in Russia,” said Congressman Peter Roskam. “Congress is considering legislation with bipartisan support that would impose targeted sanctions on Russian officials complicit in human rights and rule of law violations like the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer working to uncover official corruption, and businessmen like Khodorkovsky. I plan to support such legislation and hope to see it become law.”
The Magnitsky Act, which has been introduced in the Senate by Democratic senator Ben Cardin with broad bipartisan support, including cosponsorship by leadership in both parties (Kyl and Durbin), has support from some of the usual suspects (Lieberman and McCain), and even some of the newest members (Blumenthal and Rubio). The bill would require the Obama administration to compile a list of officials and individuals in Russia who have been complicit in human rights and rule of law violations. Those who make the list would be blacklisted from entering the United States, and their assets and bank accounts in the United States would be frozen.
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Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the imprisoned former oil tycoon, lost an appeal of his second conviction for fraud Tuesday, but his sentence was cut by a year and now will end in 2016.
Khodorkovsky and his business partner and fellow defendant, Platon Lebedev, had been convicted in December of embezzling nearly $30 billion from Yukos, the oil company they ran. Khodorkovsky had antagonized Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and the charges were widely considered not only politically motivated but also legally dubious.
Khodorkovsky, to the applause of the courtroom crowd, had this stem-winder statement on the court’s ruling:
In what dusty cellar did they dig up that poisonous Stalinist spider who wrote this drivel?
What kind of long-term investments can one talk about with such justice?
No modernization will succeed without a purging of these cellars.
The authors of the verdict have shown both themselves and the judicial system of Russia in an idiotic light, having declared in a high-profile, public trial that in Russia injured parties from a theft receive a profit, that the aspiration to increase it is a crime, that the “right” prices for oil in Siberia must be equal to the prices in Western Europe, transportation, customs duties and restrictedness of export notwithstanding.
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While an international legal forum is hardly the perfect setting for delving deep into the intricacies of economic governance, in Russia’s highly convoluted regulatory environment the exception is quite often the rule. As in many international discussion forums hosted by Russia lately, economic issues loom large at the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum that kicked off on Friday. “We now need to start discussing new advanced standards in banking, finances and accounting, and common corporate governance standards,” Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev told participants in a keynote address on Friday.
The three-day legal forum, organized to discuss the role of law in the innovative and safe development of global peace, was attended by nearly 500 legal experts and politicians that included Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Cecilia Malstrom, EU Home Affairs commissioner and Hans van Loon, secretary general of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Akira Kawamura, the president of the International Bar Association and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder also attended the forum, which was organized at the behest of the Russian president.
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Fourteen U.S. senators have submitted a bipartisan bill that would sanction Russian officials implicated in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail and others guilty of human rights violations.
“While this bill bears Sergei Magnitsky’s name in honor of his sacrifice, the language addresses the overall issue of the erosion of the rule of law and human rights in Russia,” Senator Benjamin Cardin, a Democrat, said Thursday when he introduced the legislation in Washington, according to a transcript of his remarks.
The U.S. legislation, whose sponsors include Republican John McCain and independent Joseph Lieberman, would impose a visa ban and asset freeze on the 60 officials implicated in the Magnitsky case. They are from the Federal Security Service, the Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Federal Tax Service and the Federal Prison Service.
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