Monday

9th Dec 2019

MEPs to Mogherini: Stop ignoring us on Russia sanctions

  • Browder has amassed evidence that Magnitsky's killers laundered stolen money through EU banks (Photo: YouTube.com)

A cross-party group of MEPs has urged the EU foreign service to stop ignoring the European Parliament on Magnitsky sanctions.

Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption activist, died in jail in 2009 in what EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy once called an “emblematic case” for lack of law and order in Russia.

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The EU parliament has urged EU diplomats in four resolutions over the past four years to follow the US in blacklisting the Russian officials implicated in the killing.

This week, 23 MEPs from centre-right and liberal groups in the EU assembly urged foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini to “present a proposal to the Council of Ministers to sanction these 32 individuals”.

They said in a letter, seen by EUobserver: “As the new head of the European External Action Service, what nearest actions do you plan to undertake … to make sure there is no further impunity in the Magnitsky case?”.

MEPs have no formal powers on foreign affairs.

But Mogherini’s spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, told EUobserver the letter is “a new opportunity to consider the case”.

She noted that top EU officials, such as Van Rompuy and Mogherini’s predecessor, Catherine Ashton, on several occasions urged Russia to take action on the issue.

“So far we have not seen a satisfactory response”.

Mogherini will chair her first meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (17 November). But their debate on Russia - the main point on the agenda - will be limited to its war on Ukraine.

One senior EU diplomat told this website that, in technical terms, Magnitsky and Ukraine are “unrelated issues”.

“Looking at the big picture, I understand how you can link them [lack of rule of law in Russia and lack of respect for international law]”, he added.

“I sympathise with the Magnitsky cause. But you have to look at it in terms of: Would they [Magnitsky sanctions] help or not help the Ukraine situation? Personally, I don’t think they would help”.

A second EU diplomat also poured cold water on the MEPs’ appeal.

He noted that with Russian and Ukrainian officials on existing blacklists launching a barrage of legal appeals in the EU court in Luxembourg, Europe is becoming more cautious on whom it lists.

“We would have to have legal certainty that these [Russian] judges, prosecutors, and prison officials were really responsible for the Magnitsky affair. But we have no capacity to launch an investigation, so there is a problem of lack of proof”.

The diplomat added that EU sanctions are supposed to be a “preventative, not a punitive instrument”.

But for his part, Bill Browder - a London-based financier who employed Magnitsky and who has waged a five-year trans-Atlantic campaign to blacklist his killers - rejected the diplomats’ logic.

On proof of guilt, he told this website: “The Magnitsky case is the most well-documented human rights abuse case to come out of Russia in the last 35 years”.

“The US government has already amassed and assessed the evidence and created a 30-person sanctions list”.

He added that an EU blacklist would be “both preventative and punitive”.

With leaked Russian border-control records showing that the alleged Magnitsky killers like to visit London, Paris, and Milan, Browder added: “It would show the vast multitude of human rights abusers in Russia that they should not continue their abuse if they want to travel to Europe”.

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