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19th Jan 2019

European MPs call for international enquiry into Magnitsky affair

Sixty nine MPs from across Europe have called for an international enquiry into the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

The deputies - who hail mostly from EU countries, but also Croatia, Iceland, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland - signed the motion at the human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe (CoE), in Strasbourg on Wednesday (25 April).

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  • Putin's Russia: 1,010 people died in pre-trial detention between 2009 and 2011 (Photo: kremlin.ru)

If the council's steering group at its meeting on Friday gives the green light, the motion will trigger an in-depth investigation on the model of previous enquiries into CIA renditions, organ smuggling in Kosovo and death squads in Belarus.

"The competent authorities have ... failed to properly investigate and prosecute those responsible for Mr Magnitsky's death," the motion says.

"For the sake of its own credibility and that of the Russian Federation, the [CoE] should now engage in co-operation with Russia, through the preparation of a dedicated report, in order to fully elucidate this landmark case."

The man behind the initiative, Dutch centre-right MP Pieter Omtzigt, said the level of political support for his proposal "suggests the truly emblematic nature of the Magnitsky case."

His words echo EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who said in a letter to outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on 18 April that the Magnitsky affair "has come to symbolise the state of the rule of law and judiciary in the Russian Federation."

Sergei Magnitsky was a 37-year-old father-of-two who was allegedly tortured and beaten to death in a Russian jail in 2009 after exposing a high-level tax-embezzlement gang in the interior ministry.

The EU has in the past said it might follow the US by imposing a travel ban or asset freeze on a list of 60-or-so suspects, but only after Russia completes its internal investigation. The outcome of the Russian probe - which excludes 59 of them to focus on potential negligence by a prison doctor - was on Tuesday postponed for the 12th time since it began.

Magnitsky's family and former employers expect Russian CoE envoys to try to quash the motion at Friday's meeting.

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