Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Investigation

MEPs demand EU sanctions over Magnitsky murder, again

  • Kremlin towers. The death of Russian attorney Sergei Magnitsky sparked international condemnation, but no action (Photo: davidgordillo)

MEPs on the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee have piled fresh political pressure on their governments to impose sanctions on Russian officials linked to the murder of whistleblower accountant Sergei Magnitsky.

In a resolution drafted by Estonian liberal MEP Kristiina Ojuland, MEPs on Thursday (20 September) by 62 votes against two called on EU governments to make a list of over 60 suspected officials and to impose an EU-wide visa ban and asset-freeze on the lot.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The asset freeze is to extend to the alleged culprits' families.

The move would see the EU "take a coherent and pro-active stance on ... serious human rights violations in Russia," the resolution said.

Speaking after the vote, Ojuland said that imposing the sanctions would "put real pressure on Russian authorities to start taking criticism on human rights seriously" and that the measures would be "a necessary step against corruption and human rights violators."

Magnitksy was allegedly tortured and beaten to death in Moscow's Butryka jail in 2009.

He had been arrested 11 months earlier after exposing a multi-million-dollar tax fraud by high-level Kremlin officials and FSB intelligence officers.

The resolution is the third time the EU parliament has called for action in the case.

It passed similar motions in 2010 and 2011.

Five national parliaments in Europe, as well as the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, have also condemned Russia's handling of the affair.

In April, European Council chief Herman Van Rompuy weighed into the debate, telling the then Russian President Dimitri Medvedev that the case had "come to symbolise the state of the rule of law and judiciary in the Russian Federation."

EU foreign ministries and the EU's foreign service do not want to touch the issue with a barge pole, however.

EU diplomats previously told this website the Union cannot get involved in other countries' internal criminal procedures because it would open the door to sanctions against too many places.

But pro-Magnitsky campaigners, such as his former employer, the UK-based venture capitalist Bill Browder, say the real reason is that they fear Russian reprisals.

For its part, Internet advocacy group Avaaz also on Thursday handed MEPs a petition signed by 575,000 European citizens demanding EU-Magnitsky action.

Speaking with EUobserver, Avaaz campaign director Stephanie Brancaforte described the case as "a litmus test on whether the EU is serious about combating human rights violations." She called on the EU and the US to confront the Russian regime after "a long history of turning a blind eye to impunity and corruption."

The case has emerged as an issue in the US presidential campaign.

The so-called Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which is designed to put sanctions not just on Magnitsky officials but on any official from any country linked credibly to human rights abuses, at first gained cross-party support in both houses of Congress.

But it is now at the centre of a political battle, with Republican congressmen keen to to tie it to a vote on a bilateral trade deal between Russia and the US.

In a press statement last week, Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney said that he would only normalise trade with Russia if the Magnitsky bill is enacted and condemned what he described as "the Obama administration's attempts to scuttle the Magnitsky bill."

"As [Russian leader] Putin obstructs US funding of rights groups, Obama should stop opposing targeted sanctions on Putin's rights abusers," Ken Roth, the head of US-based NGO Human Rights Watch, tweeted on Friday, referring to Russia's expulsion of USaid, the state department's foreign pro-democracy branch.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us