Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

EUobserver receives human rights prize

  • Magnitsky award winners in London on Monday (Photo: Anna Aleksandra Koj)

EUobserver journalist Andrew Rettman on Monday (16 November), in London, received the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award for European coverage of the case.

Magnitsky was a Russian auditor who was killed in prison in 2009 after exposing a $240 million tax scam involving high-level officials.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Rettman: Honest judges more important than revolutionaries

His employer at the time, British hedge fund manager Bill Browder, launched an international campaign to bring his killers to justice.

It saw the US, in 2012, pass the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, prompting the State Department to impose visa bans and asset freezes on at least 18 people involved in the plot.

Browder also campaigned for parallel EU sanctions. He demonstrated the killers used banks in EU countries to launder stolen money and frequently holiday in European cities.

Some funds were frozen by individual jurisdictions. But despite several EU Parliament and national parliament resolutions, the EU didn’t take collective action to this day.

The 2015 Magnitsky awards is the first edition of what is to be an annual event.

Speaking at the ceremony in Westminster, Rettman said: “Sergei Magnitsky stands out for the kind of qualities which often appear all-too small: moral clarity; patience; tenacity; humility.”

“The message of the Magnitsky story is that no country can ever be great, or a responsible neighbour, or a credible partner in a common cause, if it tramples its own people’s fundamental rights.”

“Countries like Russia need honest judges as much as, if not more than, they need revolutionaries.”

The other eight winners of the 2015 awards include: Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal group in the EU Parliament; Jim McGovern, a US Congressman; Irwin Cotler, a Canadian former attorney general; investigative journalist group OCCRP; and, posthumously, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot in Moscow in March.

The event was attended by Magnitsky’s son and widow, as well as by Nemtsov’s daughter, Zhanna, who collected the prize in her late father’s name.

Other guests included Vladimir Kara-Murza, one of Nemtsov’s associates, who is recovering after being poisoned in July, and Mikheil Khodorkovsky, an oligarch-turned-reformer, who spent 10 years in prison in Russia before moving to London.

Oleg Navalny

For his part, Verhofstadt promised to put pressure on the EU to “take action” on Oleg Navalny, the brother of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, who was jailed last year on dubious charges.

Navalny's associates describe the move as a “new policy of hostage-taking against the opposition.”

Meanwhile, McGovern, who was instrumental in passing the Magnitsky Act in the US, urged European governments to follow suit.

“There are too many people in government who think their job is just to keep things calm: ‘We have a relationship with [Russian leader] Putin, let’s not rock the boat’,” he said.

"Sometimes you have to act just because it's the right thing to do."

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a former justice minister in Germany, said: “I tried, but unfortunately without success, to pass a Magnitsky Act also in Germany.”

Authentic hero

Cotler, who in the past gave legal advice to prominent prisoners of conscience, such as Nelson Mandela, gave tribute to Browder for popularising the cause of Magnitsky, whom he called “an authentic human rights hero - a person of uncommon courage, integrity, dignity.”

Chris Bryant, an MP from the Labour Party, the main opposition party in the UK, noted that London and Washington are, following the Paris attack, more open to working with Moscow against Islamic State.

But he “pledged” to hold British PM David Cameron “to account” on his promise to take a tough line with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

EUobserver appoints new editor-in-chief

EUobserver's founder, Lisbeth Kirk, passes on editor-in-chief role to Eric Maurice, while Meg Chang becomes head of operations. EU-wide coverage, investigations and opinions to be expanded.

Feature

Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act

"If evil is not defeated, it tends to expand", Natalia Magnitskaya, the widow of a Russian anti-corruption activist, has said, as EU diplomats discuss human rights sanctions 10 years after his death.

Human rights abusers to face EU blacklists

Human rights abusers worldwide will, in future, face EU asset freezes and travel bans under new-model sanctions agreed by foreign ministers in Brussels.

News in Brief

  1. Orban wants bill to tighten grip over theatres
  2. Dutch reduce terror threat level for first time since 2013
  3. Russia banned from Olympics over doping scandal
  4. EU agrees future human rights sanctions
  5. Greens demand Zahradil conflict of interest probe
  6. EU commission to 'correct mistake' on enlargement
  7. Luxembourg pushes EU to recognise Palestine
  8. Minister: 'All Brussels kids should be trilingual at 18'

Agenda

UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK

EU leaders will try to agree on the 2050 emission-free target - but they will deeply disagree on EU spending over the next seven years. Meanwhile the UK will elect its new political leadership.

Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres

A trend has emerged over the past few months where desperate people are paying to get locked up in Libyan detention centres to escape the conflict and with the hope they stand a better chance of getting resettled to Europe.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us