WASHINGTON – The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, legislation authored by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, passed the committee unanimously today by voice vote.
The bill would ensure human rights abusers and corrupt officials are denied entry into the United States and barred from using our financial institutions. The legislation would expand the Russia-specific sanctions in the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act (Public Law 112-208) to apply globally, and would make significant acts of corruption a sanctionable offense.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee previously passed this bill in July 2014. A global version of the bill also was approved by both the Senate Finance and Senate Foreign Relations Committees in 2012.
“This is an important step in a long road of targeting human rights abusers and corrupt individuals around the globe who threaten the rule of law and deny human rights or fundamental freedoms,” said Senator Cardin. “This bipartisan bill provides the United States with the tools to deter future abuses throughout the world, while also protecting our strategic financial infrastructure from those who would use it to launder or shelter ill-gotten gains. Gross violators of human rights are put on notice that they cannot escape the consequences of their actions even when their home country fails to act. The United States must maintain its global leadership in the fight against corruption and human rights abuses.”
This legislation is named in honor of Sergei Magnitsky, who has come to symbolize the rampant and often violent corruption exemplified by President Vladimir Putin and his government. 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. In a mockery of the rule of law, Magnitsky was tried and convicted posthumously. Magnitsky joins a heartbreaking list of heroes across the globe who lost their lives because they stood up for principle.
A summary of the bill follows below. The full text can be found here.
· Authorizes the President to publish and update a list of each foreign national the President determines is responsible for significant corruption, extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals seeking to promote human rights or to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials. Sanctions on these individuals include:
· Prohibiting or revoking U.S. entry visas or other entry documentation; and
· Freezing and prohibiting U.S. property transactions of an individual if such property and property interests are in the United States, come within the United States, or are in or come within the control of a U.S. person or entity.
· Authorizes the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury to report annually to Congress regarding actions taken pursuant to the bill.
· In determining whether credible evidence exists to apply the sanctions outlined in this Act, the President must consider requests made by the Chairperson and Ranking Member of one of the following congressional committees: the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; and the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives.