Saturday

23rd Jul 2016

Sweden declines safe passage to Magnitsky campaigner

Sweden has declined to guarantee the safety of a campaigner for EU sanctions on Russian officials despite Russian threats.

Bill Browder, a London-based businessman who is calling for EU countries to blacklist Russian officials suspected of fraud and conspiracy to murder, asked the Swedish government to promise him "safe passage" back in June.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Stockholm. 'Sweden should be supporting human rights activists with a just cause, not hindering them,' Johansson noted (Photo: panoramas)

He did it in order to speak at a Swedish parliament hearing in the context of Russian threats to have him arrested, extradited and jailed.

But a senior official in the Swedish justice ministry, Martin Valfridsson, in a letter in June and in a second letter on 23 September said No, leading Browder to cancel his trip.

Valfridsson hinted that Sweden would not help Russia to get its hands on Browder.

He spoke of the "appalling … lack of respect for human rights and rule of law in the Russian Federation."

He also said Sweden "takes due note" of a decision by Interpol, the international police body based in Lyon, France, not to honour Russia's request for a Browder arrest notice because it was made for "political" motives.

But he added that, under Swedish law, he cannot promise to decline a Russian request before it has been made and he cannot instruct the police not to arrest people.

For Browder, the real reason is fear of annoying Russia.

His lawyers noted in an appeal that Russia on 6 May already asked Sweden for co-operation to track him down.

They cited chapter and verse of Swedish law on international legal assistance, which says "the government," not individual law enforcement agencies, is responsible for deciding how to act.

They also noted that Germany and the Netherlands have given Browder safe passage guarantees.

"This looks to me like the victory of realpolitik over morality in Sweden. It would have been very easy for the Swedish government to provide assurances that they wouldn't arrest me and the fact they didn't suggests they are very worried about upsetting Russia," Browder told this website.

"I'm confident a Swedish court would ultimately reject any Russian extradition request, but for me to spend six months in a Swedish prison fighting extradition … is not a good use of my time," he added.

A Swedish MP from the ruling centre-right Moderate Party, Mats Johansson, backed Browder's point of view.

"We should not be giving in to Russian pressure when fundamental human rights issues are at stake," he told press on Monday (30 September).

Browder launched his sanctions campaign three years ago after his Russian auditor, Sergei Magnitsky, exposed a scam by Russian officials and mafia to embezzle state funds.

Magnitsky later died in suspicious circumstances in pre-trial detention, while a Russian court earlier this year sentenced Browder in absentia to nine years' prison on fraud charges.

His campaign has seen the US impose visa bans and asset freezes on several Russian suspects, but EU foreign ministries have declined to follow suit.

Russia has a track record of using Interpol and bilateral judicial contacts to seek people's extradition from EU countries on dubious grounds.

In some cases, arrest notices are honoured by EU countries' police forces despite Interpol's instructions to ignore them.

MEPs fear further 'Putinisation' of Turkey

MEPs criticised the harsh crackdown in Turkey after last week's failed coup, and warned that Ankara must not go down the road towards an authoritarian regime, in an extraordinary meeting of the EP's foreign affairs committee.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event Agenda for 2016
  2. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  3. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  4. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for International Probe Into Turkey Coup Allegations
  8. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  9. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children
  10. Counter BalanceReport: Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company
  11. Access NowEuropol Supports Encryption. We Can Relax Now… Right?
  12. GoogleLearn about Google's projects across Europe on Twitter @GoogleBrussels

Latest News

  1. Munich attack might not have been terrorism
  2. A very British (and Corbynite) coup
  3. Poland 'changing for the worse' for Muslims and refugees
  4. EU aims to lift visas on Turks despite purge
  5. ECB in ‘bail-out’ of scandal-tainted VW
  6. EU failed to learn lesson from Brexit, Poland says
  7. UK accord on EU workers 'crucial', France says
  8. EU and US take different lines on Turkey crackdown