He may be the only person in Washington focused on foreign policy right now. In an op-ed in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., called on Congress to pass the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, a bill that would invoke a travel ban against known violators of human rights, freeze their U.S. assets, and publish their names. Cardin called the measure “a powerful deterrent for those craving respectability and legitimacy in the West.”
The bill, which Cardin co-sponsored, is named for a tax lawyer who blew the whistle on the largest known tax fraud in Russian history while working for an American firm in Moscow. Sergei Magnitsky was imprisoned in 2008 for his actions and died in November 2009 in isolation.
While Cardin acknowledges that there is little the U.S. government can do in the case of Magnitsky and other victims of political violence in Russia, he sees the bill as a way to reduce human rights violations around the world.
“This bipartisan effort sends the unambiguous warning that even if your home country looks the other way as you violate human rights and trample the rule of law, the United States will not stand by as an unwitting accomplice in your crimes,” Cardin wrote. “The legislation provides moral support to those who suffer or risk their safety to fight for justice.”
Cardin’s piece comes against the backdrop of efforts by the Obama administration to stabilize and “reset” relations with its former Cold War adversary, although the administration has made clear that Russia needs to clean up its government and reduce corruption. The Maryland senator said that while he supports Obama’s efforts, “we must not abandon American values in the process; nor should we minimize the power of our example.”