16 September 2011 | 16:05
Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
Honorable John Kerry
Chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations
United States Senate
Dear Messrs. Senators
This letter is an expression of support for S. 1039, the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011”, currently pending before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
This bill prescribes sanctions in the form of denial of visas to the US and freezing of bank accounts in the USA for persons – including officials of the Russian Federation – who have engaged in human rights violations, ones such as abuses of power whether for personal or political motives or for covering up abuses by colleagues.
Egregious abuses of human rights are, unfortunately, common in today’s Russia. Sergei Magnitsky, the namesake of the bill, was deprived of his liberty without cause and in violation of basic principles of justice. Russian authorities were responsible for his perishing while in custody. Magnitsky ended up in jail because, executing his official duties, he discovered theft from the Russian budget of a large sum of money, committed by a group of senior Russian officials. Russian authorities continue to evade bringing the officials guilty of Magnitsky’s death to justice.
For us it is very important that US legislators take steps to bring the persons who are violating the law and abusing power in Russia to justice. We believe human rights should not be sidelined for perceived political interests.
Human rights should not be sidelined for the sake of political interests, whatever they may be.
Sergei Magnitsky fell victim to inhuman Russian justice. No small number of our citizens are illegally deprived of liberty in consequence of the defects of this system. Impunity for those who fabricated the charges against Magnitsky and caused him to die, gives free rein to other officials, who enrich themselves with the property of others or pursue the political opponents of the authorities. The felonious enforcement cliques seize the property of their victims who resist these takeovers, pursue them and deprive them of their liberty for many long years. And in detention they can be subjected to abuse and even torture.
The most famous victims of such takeovers are the owner of the YUKOS company Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the manager of this company Platon Lebedev. Amnesty International has recognized bother of them as prisoners of conscience. The result of their arrest and the takeover of the company became expansion of the gigantic economic empire owned by persons from Prime Minister V. Putin’s inner circle.
Opposition politicians, human rights advocates and civic activists have become victims of persecutions and unlawful arrests under made-up pretexts. Such persecutions will not cease as long as those who are responsible for the death of Magnitsky, for the imprisonment of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, and the crackdown on Russian civil society remain unpunished.
Bill S. 1039 prescribes sanctions not only with respect to the Magnitsky case, but applies to the entire range of human rights abuses, among others, in Russia as well. Accordingly, officials responsible for the politically motivated persecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev and the other victims of the persecution of the YUKOS company as well as those who impede the exercise of fundamental democratic liberties, ones such as freedom of assembly, freedom to create parties, freedom of elections etc. ought to be included in this list. This is a list that is much longer that that list of roughly 60 individuals sent by Senator Cardin to the US State Department in 2010. Such a list must from now on be supplemented with new names.
The threat of sanctions against the perpetrators of the Magnitsky tragedy struck a raw nerve with the Russian officials responsible for this tragedy. The consistent implementation of international pressure on the corruptioneers in the leadership circles of Russia will be a significant support for our civil society and for those honest people within the Russian power structures who are trying to renew and reform government institutions.
We call upon you, Honorable Senators, to support S. 1039, the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011.” We hope that it will be considered without delay and favorably in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and then by the full Senate.
Ludmilla Alexeeva, chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Lev Ponomarev, head of the All-Russia Movement For Human Rights
Nina Katerli, writer, member of the Russian PEN-CENTRE, member of the Public
Expert Board of the All-Russia Movement For Human Rights
Lidiya Grafova, journalist
Liya Akhedzhakova, people’s artist of the RF
Natalia Fateyeva, people’s artist of the RF
Boris Vishnevsky, observer for Novaya gazeta
Konstantin Azadovskii, literary historian, Chairman of the executive committee of the Saint Petersburg PEN-club
Eldar Ryazanov, film director, scriptwriter, poet
Alexey Devotchenko, Russian theater and movie actor, honoured artist of Russia. Boris Nemtsov, politician Mark Urnov, Russian political scientist, scientific head of the Applied Political Science Departmetn of the Higher School of Economics State University. Victor Shenderovich, Soviet and Russian satirist, TV and radio host, liberal publicist, human rights advocate Vladimir Ryzhkov, opposition politician Rafail Ganelin, historian, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Open Letter on Rule of Law in Russia