Julian Pecquet, The Hill - 06/04/12
The House Foreign Affairs Committee this week will become the first panel to vote on human-rights legislation that lawmakers of both parties say is a precondition to normalizing trade relations with Russia.
The panel is scheduled to mark up the so-called Magnitsky bill, sponsored by U.S. Congressional Human Rights Commission co-chairman Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), on Thursday. The bill has the support of committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and is expected to easily pass the House despite Russian threats of retaliation.
“If this new anti-Russian law is adopted, then of course that demands measures in response,” Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Yuri Ushakov said last week.
The bill is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested on fraud charges and died in custody three years ago after accusing tax officials of a $230 million fraud. It would impose travel and financial sanctions on anyone “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture or other human-rights violations committed against individuals seeking to promote human rights or to expose illegal activity carried out by officials of the government of the Russian Federation,” according to a summary, as well as officials involved in Magnitsky’s detention and death.
The legislation aims to give Congress a way to pressure Moscow on human rights after the United States establishes normal trade relations with Russia, which is supposed to happen this July following Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. The bill would replace the Jackson-Vanik amendment, Cold War-era legislation that denied favored-nation status to certain countries that restrict emigration.
House takes lead on Russian human-rights bill