Posts Tagged ‘mcgovern’
A U.S. lawmaker who spearheaded legislation punishing accused Russian rights abusers plans to meet officials from the Obama administration to press for answers as to why it has failed to blacklist more Russian officials under the law.
U.S. Representative James McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said he is seeking a sit-down with the administration to discuss why it did not expand the blacklist authorized by the Magnitsky Act prior to issuing a mandatory report on the law last month that he called “disappointing” and short on detail.
“I expected more. But I want to give them an opportunity to explain to me why the brevity, why the omission of names,” McGovern, who first proposed the idea of the Magnitsky legislation at a May 2010 congressional hearing, told RFE/RL.
The legislation, passed at the end of 2012, introduces visa bans and financial sanctions on Russian officials implicated in the 2009 death of whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
The December report has not been made public, but an RFE/RL correspondent was allowed to view its one-page narrative portion, which includes general information about the 18 individuals placed on the inaugural blacklist in April by the State and Treasury Departments.
One congressional staffer familiar with the report echoed McGovern’s criticism, calling its narrative section largely a rehash of previously available details and unworthy of serious efforts by many administration officials to “fulfill the letter and spirit of the Magnitsky Act.”
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Rep. Jim McGovern sends a letter to Secretary Kerry regarding the implementation of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act
Today, Congressman Jim McGovern sent a letter to Secretary Kerry, urging him to encourage his European counterparts to adopt legislation and/or measures similar to the ones outlined in the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. The letter comes in anticipation of a new report from the State Department and Treasury on the implementation of the Magnitsky Act.
U.S. lawmakers say they’re increasingly frustrated with Vladimir Putin and are demanding that President Obama crack down on Russia following a slew of recent spats with the United States.
The country over the past two weeks has sentenced Putin’s biggest critic to five years in prison and posthumously convicted a dead whistle-blower championed by Congress. To top it off, the Kremlin is now considering asylum for NSA leaker Edward Snowden, a move lawmakers warn would bring U.S.-Russian relations to a post-Cold War low.
“Enough is enough,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared Friday upon introducing a resolution calling on the September G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg to be moved to some other country if Russia doesn’t turn over Snowden. “It’s time to send a crystal clear message to President Putin about Russia’s deplorable behavior, and this resolution will do just that.”
Schumer’s co-sponsor on the resolution, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), made international headlines earlier this week when he told The Hill that Obama should consider pulling out of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi if Snowden gets asylum.
“I would just send the Russians the most unequivocal signal I could send them,” Graham said when asked about the possibility of a boycott. “It might help, because what they’re doing is outrageous.”
The feeling is bicameral.
“I’m absolutely frustrated with Russia,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). “Every day the human rights situation continues to get worse.”
McGovern is the House author of legislation targeting alleged Russian human-rights offenders that was named after Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-corruption whistle-blower who died in police custody. McGovern urged the administration to add higher-ups in the Putin government to the list of people banned from traveling to the United States or holding assets in the country.
“We gave the administration a very effective tool – they need to use it,” McGovern told The Hill. “Now isn’t the time to be quiet, now is the time to speak up about what’s going on over there.”
“We haven’t been pushing them that hard, and they’ve been no help to us on Syria. It is important that we push back, and if we don’t, who will? Nobody.”
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On Nov. 16, 2009, Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died of heart failure in Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina Prison, after eight guards are alleged to have beaten him with rubber batons for more than an hour. An ambulance crew that had been called to provide medical attention was detained outside his cell until it was too late.
According to a report issued by then-Russian President Dimitry Medvedev’s Human Rights Council, the death of Mr. Magnitsky, 37, followed his unlawful 2008 arrest and subsequent 11-month detainment, during which he was repeatedly denied medical attention and tortured by his captors while awaiting trial.
Despite these findings, no arrests have been made in connection with Mr. Magnitsky’s death, and none appear to be forthcoming. But his death has since become an international affair, with U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., at the forefront: The two legislators worked together to enact a law late last year that seeks to hold accountable those in Russia who were involved,
The statute, formally known as the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, this month resulted in publication of a list of Russian officials that the State Department says were responsible. These individuals have been barred from entering the United States, with some of them subject to a freeze on personal assets in this country.
At the same time, the Magnitsky law also has triggered a retaliatory ban on adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens, while creating further complications in an already strained relationship between the United States and Russia.
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The United States has slapped visa bans and asset freezes on 18 individuals, most of them Russian officials, whose names have been published on the “Magnitsky list.”
The move could further strain ties between Washington and Moscow, which has vowed swift retaliation.
It could also foreshadow a struggle between the White House and the members of Congress who advocate a longer list targeting higher-ranking Russian figures.
The majority of the men and women identified — 16 — are targeted for their role in the case of whistle-blowing Moscow lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The 37-year-old Magnitsky died following nearly a year of pretrial custody after implicating Russian officials in a scheme to steal $230 million from state coffers.
His case has since become an international symbol of injustice and a marker of Russia’s troubling human-rights and rule-of-law record.
Among the mostly low- to mid-level officials sanctioned is Uzbekistan-born Oleg Silchenko. As a senior investigator in the Russian Interior Ministry, he allegedly arranged for Magnitsky’s arrest and abuse in prison in an effort to make the lawyer withdraw his allegations against ministry colleagues.
THE ‘MAGNITSKY LIST’
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Washington risked reopening a diplomatic rift with Moscow following the publication of a blacklist of Russian officials who are banned from the United States because of their alleged involvement in the death in custody of the whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Earlier in the day Moscow had warned that any decision to go ahead and release the list could damage relations between the two countries. Washington passed legislation banning the officials in December but had so far put off making the list public until now.
According to the list released last night on the Treasury’s website there are 18 officials who have been named. It was compiled in the wake of the arrest and death in custody of Mr Magnitsky, a father of two and Moscow-based lawyer who helped expose a multi-million dollar tax scam that was allegedly carried out by criminal underworld figures allied with Russian officials and police officers.
Among those included on the blacklist is Pavel Karpov, a former interior ministry police officer who is currently suing William Browder in the UK courts for libel. Mr Browder, a millionaire hedge fund manager and staunch critic of official corruption inside Russia, employed Mr Magnitsky to uncover a $230million tax scam against a series of subsidiaries that were once owned by his company Hermitage capital.
After publicly naming a number of officials Mr Magnistky was arrested for tax evasion and died nine months later in prison. His family, rights groups and Russian’s own human rights investigation body say there was evidence he was beaten in custody and denied vital medication.
Mr Browder has named Mr Karpov as one of the officials behind the scam. However the former detective has vehemently denied any involvement and has launched a libel case against him in the High Court.
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The Obama administration has sanctioned 18 Russian officials for alleged violations of human rights in their country, adding new strain to the difficult U.S.-Russian relationship.
U.S. officials released the names of 18 Russian officials on Friday who they said were involved in three human rights cases, including the persecution and death of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky. The officials will be denied visas to the United states, and any U.S. financial assets they have will be frozen.
The blacklisting was carried out under the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, which has become a major irritant between the United States and Russia. Russians consider the law an example of hypocritical American meddling and have already adopted a retaliatory law calling for sanctions against U.S. officials.
U.S. officials said other Russian officials were sanctioned on a separate, classified blacklist. Those officials can’t be publicly identified without threatening U.S. security, they said.
Officials in Russia said they would announce their own blacklisting of U.S. officials involved in what they see as human rights abuses, as well as lawmakers responsible for the Magnitsky act.
“We will react, and [our] U.S. partners are aware of that,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference in Switzerland.
But the American list doesn’t include the names of top Russian officials, a fact that appeared to soften the reaction in Moscow.
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The Treasury Department on Friday announced sanctions against 18 Russians over human rights violations, but avoided some prominent officials whose inclusion could have enflamed U.S.-Russian relations.
U.S. lawmakers who backed the sanctions viewed the list as timid while a prominent Russian lawmaker said it could have been worse. State Department officials denied that political considerations had been a factor.
The list was mandated by a law passed last year and named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates. He died in prison the next year, allegedly after being beaten and denied medical treatment.
The list included Artem Kuznetsov and Pavel Karpov, two Russian Interior Ministry officers who put Magnitsky behind bars after he accused them of stealing $230 million from the state. Two tax officials the lawyer accused of approving the fraudulent tax refunds, and several other Interior Ministry officials accused of persecuting Magnitsky were also on the list. Absent were senior officials from President Vladimir Putin’s entourage whom some human rights advocates had hoped to see sanctioned.
Magnitsky’s former client, London-based investor William Browder, who has campaigned to bring those responsible in his death to justice, has claimed that one of those tax officials, Olga Stepanova, has bought luxury real estate in Moscow, Dubai and Montenegro and wired money through her husband’s bank accounts worth $39 million.
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The United States has published a list of mainly Russian officials banned from entering the country because of alleged human rights abuses.
Russia had earlier warned against making the 18 names public, warning it could severely damage relations.
The US imposed the sanctions after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in jail in 2009 in disputed circumstances.
The list includes tax officials and police officers who jailed Magnitsky after he accused them of corruption.
But senior officials from President Vladimir Putin’s entourage who had been expected to be included were left off, including Russia’s top police official Alexander Bastrykin.
Alexei Pushkov, a senior Russian lawmaker, said the pared down list suggested that “the US presidential administration decided not to take the path of aggravating a political crisis with Moscow”, according to the Interfax news agency.
Some 250 names had originally been put forward by US politicians. The final list includes people from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, 16 of them linked to the Magnitsky case.
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