Russian Activists Support US ‘Magnitsky Act’

Posted December 17th, 2012 at 2:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Russian rights activists say they will draft a list of Russian human rights violators, after the United States passed a law last week that imposes sanctions on such individuals.

Ex-Soviet dissident and leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group for Human Rights, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, announced the creation of a new group that she says will investigate claims of abuse and those involved in unjust proceedings with a view toward publishing their names.

Alexeyeva said she hopes the U.S. Congress will consider the group's evidence and act on it, if it finds it convincing.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed the so-called “Magnitsky Act” last week, which denies visas and freezes the U.S. bank assets of suspected Russian rights violators. The bill is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year-old Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died in jail in 2009 after exposing what he called a criminal ring of officials who stole $250 million in tax money. The legislation is designed to target Russian officials involved in Magnitsky's detention, abuse or death.

The move angered Moscow, which is now considering legislation that would penalize Americans implicated in violations of rights against Russian citizens abroad. Those blacklisted would be banned from entering Russia and would be subject to asset freezes.

U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Monday that Washington rejects Russia's attempt at a reciprocal comparison, saying U.S. lawmakers continue to call on Russia to bring justice for Magnitsky.

Russian lawmakers say they are considering naming their measure after Dima Yakovlev, a Russian boy who died after his U.S. adoptive family left him locked in a car. The bill was approved in the initial reading last week, and is up for a second reading this week.

Russian officials have expressed concern about the treatment of Russian children adopted by Americans. But Alexander Romanov of the World Links Adoption Agency told VOA's Russian service that the criticism is unfair. He said statistics refute the allegations, saying the majority of the tens of thousands of Russian children adopted into American families grow up well and realize their full potential.

The U.S. Senate passed the Magnitsky bill last week, about three weeks after it cleared the House of Representatives.