Monday

19th Nov 2018

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.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and France agree eurozone budget framework
  2. Austrian foreign minister: EU's Israel policy 'too strict'
  3. Soros and Kurz discuss Central European University move
  4. EU set to tighten rules on foreign strategic investment
  5. Macron repeats call for unified Europe in Bundestag speech
  6. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  7. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  8. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down

Opinion

EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation

EU foreign ministers will discuss Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday. The EU has the opportunity to show that it is not a political dwarf in the Balkans, where not only economic, but also political reforms are necessary.

Agenda

Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK

All eyes on London this week, where May struggles to hold onto power against Brexit rebels, while EU leaders meet in Brussels on Sunday to try to clinch agreement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges
  2. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  3. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine
  4. EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation
  5. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  6. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  7. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  8. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us