October 01, 2019

Cardin, Rubio Lead Call for U.S. to Hold Russian Officials Accountable for Imprisoning Dissidents and Political Opponents

Conservatively, recent reports estimate there are more than 200 political prisoners in Russia

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are leading bipartisan calls for the Trump Administration to sanction Russian officials responsible for an overwhelming number of political prisoners in that country.

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, the senators urge the use of existing authorities, including the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act authored by Cardin, “to impose targeted sanctions on Russian Government officials responsible for human rights abuses, specifically for the politically motivated imprisonment of dissidents, under relevant U.S. statutory authorities. This is an important step for accountability, and sends a message that the U.S. stands with those whose rights and basic freedoms are being unjustly repressed,” they wrote. 

In addition to Cardin and Rubio, the letter was signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Todd Young (R- Ind.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Roger F. Wicker (R-Miss.) and Susan M. Collins (R-Maine).                

The full letter is below and at this link.         

October 1, 2019

 

The Honorable Mike Pompeo                                                The Honorable Steve Mnuchin

Secretary                                                                                 Secretary

U.S. Department of State                                                       U.S. Department of the Treasury

2201 C Street, N.W.                                                                1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W

Washington, D.C. 20520                                                         Washington, D.C. 20220

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mnuchin:

We write to request that you take action in response to the Russian government’s ongoing targeting of dissidents and opposition leaders, including the politically motivated imprisonment of many Russian individuals. We urge you to use existing authorities under U.S. law, including the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, to impose targeted sanctions on Russian Government officials responsible for these human rights abuses.

The Memorial Human Rights Center, a respected Russian human rights organization documenting political prisoner’s cases, reports that there are currently over 200 vetted political prisoners in Russia. This estimate is likely conservative, as it is based on strict Council of Europe criteria. Since 2015, this number has increased significantly.

Russia’s political prisoners include peaceful protesters, civil society activists, human rights advocates, journalists, Crimean Tatars, members of “undesirable” political organizations and adherents of prohibited religious groups. Some examples of particularly egregious cases are Alexei Pichugin who has been imprisoned for 16 years over the “Yukos Affair” and Konstantin Kotov who was sentenced earlier this month for participating in a peaceful demonstration in Moscow. While these prisoners have different stories and different backgrounds, they are united by their unjust imprisonment under Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.

Earlier this year, an international coalition of NGOs published The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: Advancing a Political Agenda by Crushing Dissent, a comprehensive report that not only details the cases of individual prisoners but also identifies Russian Government officials who bear responsibility for arbitrary imprisonment.  While some of the individuals have already been sanctioned by the U.S. Government, many others—including Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov, and Federal Penitentiary Service Director Gennady Kornienko—have not.

We urge you to continue to impose targeted sanctions on Russian Government officials responsible for human rights abuses, specifically for the politically motivated imprisonment of dissidents, under relevant U.S. statutory authorities. This is an important step for accountability, and sends a message that the U.S. stands with those whose rights and basic freedoms are being unjustly repressed.

                                                                        Sincerely,

###