Great Britain was the only state that refused to fulfill the official request of Russian law enforcers in the search for William Browder, the former head of an investment fund wanted for embezzlement and tax evasion.
Russia’s Deputy Prosecutor General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev said at a Tuesday press conference in Moscow, “I have signed several requests addressed to Great Britain, Cyprus, Latvia and Estonia. All these countries excluding Great Britain fulfilled the international investigation instructions ahead of time.
“We hope that Great Britain heeds the international community’s call and hands us over the people who have violated the law. In the whole history of Russian-British relations the UK has only handed one person over to us – and this was an ordinary hooligan. As for the rest – the multi-millionaires and billionaires who continue to launder money in Albion – unfortunately, these are not extradited,” Zvyagintsev added.
William Browder is a US-born British citizen who founded the Hermitage Capital Management investment fund – a major firm working with Russian securities since the mid-1990s that earned its owners hundreds of millions of dollars. Browder fled Russia in 2006 after law enforcers showed interest in some of the fund’s financial schemes.
The investigation continued and led to a court process in which Browder was found guilty of large-scale tax evasion and sentenced to nine years in prison in absentia.
Another person convicted in this case is the now famous auditor, the late Sergey Magnitsky, whose name became known after his tragic death in a Moscow pre-trial detention center in 2009. According to forensic report, Magnitsky died of pancreatitis and a heart condition, but Browder and his colleagues have claimed that Russians law enforcers deliberately tortured and killed the accountant.
The case was intensely covered in the mass media and promoted in US political circles, eventually leading to the so-called Magnitsky Act – a US law imposing sanctions on Russian state and justice officials suspected in human rights violations.
Russia blasted the move as an attempt to influence an independent court in a sovereign state and retaliated with its own Guantanamo list – an act imposing sanctions on US officials suspected of violating Human Rights.
The spat between the two countries apparently allowed the General Secretariat of Interpol to refuse Russia’s warrant for Browder in July this year, claiming that the case was influenced by politics. It also ordered to delete all information about Browder from Interpol’s international databases.
Russia’s Interior Ministry replied with a statement that it was “puzzled by Interpol’s General Secretariat’s decision.”
“[The ministry] continues to consider Interpol an organization which is not motivated by political and judgmental decisions in its work, but acts solely in accordance with international law and the organization’s constitution,” the statement read.
No longer limited to US citizens suspected of human rights abuses at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the updated list of Americans prohibited from entering Russia now includes new categories of individuals.
In December, the number of US citizens declared persona non grata in Russia stood at 11; now this number has been increased by 49 more people as new categories of individuals are added to the list, Aleksey Pushkov, the chairman of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Friday.
The new names, which contain both government officials and ordinary Americans, can be divided into three categories, Pushkov said.
The first category is comprised of “judges, investigators, secret service agents and Justice Department members” who are believed to be connected with the criminal prosecution and sentencing of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, Russian nationals who were arrested by US officials, tried on American soil, and are now serving their prison sentences in the US.
Bout, a former Soviet officer who became the owner of an air transport company, was arrested in 2008 by US agents in Thailand. In November 2011, he was convicted by a jury in a New York federal court of intending to provide military weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), which the United States ranks as a terrorist organization, and conspiracy to kill US citizens. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Bout has pleaded his innocent to all charges.
Yaroshenko, a pilot, was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and transported to America on charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the US. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The second category of individuals prohibited from entering the Russian Federation include US Senators who were responsible for initiating the so-called Magnitsky Act, which was signed into law by US President Barack Obama in December.
The new US legislation attempts to punish Russian nationals who Washington believes are responsible for the death of Sergey Magnitsky, who died in a detention facility in Moscow in 2009 awaiting a tax evasion investigation.
The final category of persona non grata individuals include American adoptive parents who were found guilty of abusing their adopted Russian children or guilty of their deaths.
On December 28, 2012, President Putin signed the Dima Yakovlev bill, named after a Russian orphan who died of heat stroke after being left in a car for an extended period by his American adoptive parents.
Judges who delivered “inadequate” verdicts on such cases, as well as psychiatrists who claimed that those children allegedly had congenital deficiencies that supposedly caused their deaths are also prohibited from entering Russia.
- RT: Moscow responds to US Magnitsky Act with Dima Yakovlev Law (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
In the Brave New World of digital activism, government legislation often comes with its own promotional video. In response to a seemingly ingenuous question by ABC’s Jake Tapper about whether a “remarkable viral video” had anything to do with the decision to send U.S. special forces to Central Africa, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney intimated that “Kony 2012” was most likely on President Obama’s mind as he signed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. And if the president one day signs the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, don’t be surprised if some “pushy” reporter like Tapper asks if anyone in the White House has seen “Sergei’s Law.”
According to film’s website, the seven-minute video is the work of “a group of Russian and American students pushing for justice” in the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer “tortured to death in 2009 for exposing a $230 million heist … [whose] killers got away clean.” Visitors to the site are invited to watch the video and “make a difference” by signing its petition — Pass the Magnitsky Act! A click on the “About Us” section, however, reveals that this is no ordinary group of students:
The College-100 (C-100) is a network of student presidents from elite schools (including the Ivies, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Oxford, Cambridge, McGill, top liberal arts schools, and flagship state schools); Rhodes, Truman, and Gates scholars; Olympians; and other distinguished young people.
Moreover, this elite student network has benefited from the counsel of some rather extraordinary mentors:
The C-100′s advisors include Ambassadors Ed Perkins, Stape Roy and Tom Pickering; US senators; Governor Bill Richardson; and other distinguished national figures.
Edward J. Perkins has served as Director of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Corps, a position that would have required a close working relationship with America’s intelligence services. J. Stapleton Roy was Assistant Secretary of State for intelligence and research from 1999 to 2000 and is currently Vice Chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc. Thomas R. Pickering served as U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Russia, India, Israel, Jordan, Nigeria, and El Salvador — a posting that led to the dubious distinction of being called “a Reagan point man in Central America’s dirty wars.” Pickering currently chairs the Board of Trustees of the International Crisis Group, an NGO financed by George Soros, who could hardly be described as a disinterested party in the “push for justice” in Russia.
To be continued…
- Israel partisans stoke “human rights” crisis in U.S.-Russia relations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- President Obama must stand up for Russia’s dissidents (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
According to a Reuters report on the recent Group of Eight Summit at Camp David, Russia’s G8 liaison Arkady Dvorkovich warned of a potential crisis between Moscow and Washington over the issue of human rights:
Dvorkovich said that at a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Medvedev will raise opposition to attempts by some U.S. lawmakers to introduce legislation which will address human rights violations in Russia.
Such legislation could take a form of the so-called Sergei Magnitsky bill, named after the Russian lawyer who died in prison in 2009. The Kremlin human rights council says he was probably beaten to death.
The bill would require the United States to deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians or others with links to his detention and death as well as those who commit other human rights violations.
“New legislation which will address new political issues as imagined by some U.S. congressmen or senators is unacceptable,” Dvorkovich said, promising a retaliation.
The Magnitsky bill was introduced last year by Senator Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission). In a August 9, 2011 Washington Post op-ed to promote the legislation, Senator Cardin wrote:
The case of Sergei Magnitsky has come to symbolize the rampant and often violent corruption plaguing the Russian state. Sergei, a 37-year-old tax lawyer, husband and father working for an American firm in Moscow, blew the whistle on the largest known tax fraud in Russian history. For that he was arrested in 2008 by those he accused, and he was imprisoned under torturous conditions for nearly a year. He was denied medical care and beaten by prison guards; he died alone in November 2009 in an isolation cell as doctors waited outside his door. These facts are accepted at the highest levels of Russia’s government, yet those implicated in his death remain unpunished, in positions of authority. Some have even been decorated and promoted.
Sergei joins a heartbreaking list of Russian heroes who lost their lives because they stood up for principle. These ranks include Natalya Estemirova, a brave human rights activist whose bullet-riddled body was found on a roadside in 2009 in the North Caucasus; Anna Politikovskaya, an intrepid reporter shot in Moscow in 2006 while carrying home groceries; and too many others.
Ben Cardin’s apparent concern about Russia’s human rights abuses stands in marked contrast to his staunch support for Israel, however. Notwithstanding the equally heartbreaking — and arguably longer — list of Palestinian heroes who have lost their lives because they too stood up for principle, the Senator for Maryland’s May 24, 2011 statement regarding President Obama’s speeches on the Middle East peace process and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a Joint Session of Congress leaves little doubt as to his passionate attachment to the Jewish state despite its egregious human rights abuses:
This week, the President highlighted what I have always believed – unyielding U.S. support for Israel’s security, U.S. rejection of Palestinian terrorism, and most importantly, the necessity for the parties to commit to negotiations as the means of resolving the conflict. I also met with Prime Minister Netanyahu today and after that discussion, I am similarly confident that that what bonds our countries is an unbreakable alliance. As he stated before Congress, “Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism.”
Apart from the Washington Post’s championing of the Magnitsky bill, a cursory look at other stridently pro-Israel media such as The Weekly Standard and Commentary shows that Senator Cardin is not alone in his selective outrage over human rights abuses. So, as Moscow contemplates its “retaliation” against this “unacceptable” legislation, it should also consider whether Tel Aviv might not be a more appropriate target for its ire than Washington.