Wednesday

22nd Nov 2017

Dutch minister ignores parliament on Russia sanctions

  • Entrance to Dutch parliament. Rosenthal said 'thanks, but no thanks' to the resolution (Photo: zemistor)

The Dutch foreign minister is to ignore his own parliament over a call to impose sanctions on Russian officials deemed guilty of murdering lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Ward Bezemer, a spokesman for minister Uri Rosenthal, told EUobserver on Monday (4 July) that "in this case, he has discouraged the motion, he doesn't like it and he most likely won't act on the request." Bezemer added: "The minister shares the concerns and will continue to raise this issue internally. The Netherlands and the EU will continue to encourage the Russian federation to trace the perpetrators responsible."

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All 150 MPs in the Dutch assembly, the Tweede Kamer, last week backed a non-binding resolution calling on The Hague to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on 60 Russian officials named by Magnitsky's former employer, US-born venture capitalist Bill Browder, in the case.

The situation in The Hague mirrors the one in Brussels, where the European Parliament last year called on EU member states to consider sanctions and is being ignored.

Browder's tactic - to lobby parliaments to put pressure on Russia-wary diplomats - is getting the best results in Washington, where a cross-party group of 18 senators has introduced a bill that could force the state department to act.

But US diplomats are equally reluctant to let open parliamentary democracy into their behind-closed-doors world. "The new law is seen by the state department as excessive, because it would mean any congressman could put forward a name for the no-fly list and then the department would have to prove if they are OK. This would be a huge burden," a state department source said.

Browder noted that the Tweede Kamer is "one of many European parliaments that is planning resolutions this summer and fall on the same subject." He noted that the British, Czech, German and Polish assemblies are also sympathetic.

Under the rules of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone, if one country makes somebody persona non grata, all Schengen members are obliged to decline them a visa.

The UK is not a Schengen member. But Tony Brenton, a former British ambassador to Moscow, said in a letter to The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday: "Isn't it time that the British authorities ... made it clear too that those concerned will never receive a visa to enter the UK?"

Russian investigators on Monday acknowledged that Magnitsky, who suffered from pancreatitis, died because of "deficiencies in medical care." But the Browder camp sees it as an attempt to scapegoat prison doctors while letting top officials off the hook.

Magnitsky died in his jail cell in 2009 after uncovering a multi-million-euro tax fraud by senior officials in the interior ministry and the secret police, the FSB. He was killed by a rupture of his abdominal membrane due to lack of medication. His body also had bruised hands and broken fingers.

Meanwhile, the Russian Duma last week began work on its own bill to blacklist foreigners who abuse the rights of Russian citizens.

The bill mentions the case of Alexander Kashin - a 35-year-old Russian man who was hit by the SUV of a US consul general, Douglas Kent, in Vladivostock in 1998, and left paraplegic. Kent avoided prosecution due to diplomatic immunity and left Russia.

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