Russia infuriated critics of its human rights record by convicting late whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky of tax evasion today.
The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 targeted officials implicated in the 2009 death of tax attorney Magnitsky, who uncovered wide-scale fraud in the government and was arrested only to die behind bars at age 37.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chairman of the Helsinki Commission and author of that bill, said “Russia continues to do damage to itself with the shameful, posthumous conviction” of Magnitsky.
“Sadly, we have come to expect this sort of behavior from the Putin regime. Such a verdict does no further harm to Sergei, though it must be torturous for his family and friends. What this does is continue the downward spiral of Russia’s reputation as a law-abiding state and member of the international community,” Cardin said.
“Those who are currently abusing the rights of the Russian people will one day pass into history and Sergei will be honored as a decent man, trying to do the right thing, who gave his life for a more just and free Russia. My hope for the Russian people is that such a day will come soon.”
Magnitsky reportedly suffered torture and was denied medical treatment. Some of the officials implicated in his death and the corruption he uncovered have since received promotions.
“Sergei Magnitsky’s death and the circumstances around his imprisonment are shameful,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said. “Today’s conviction of Sergei Magnitsky – three years after his death – is nothing short of a message to Russia’s activist community of the repercussions of opposing the state. The trend toward authoritarianism in Russia and the accompanying escalation in violations of human and civil rights is reason for grave concern.”
The UK’s foreign ministry said “convicting a dead man who cannot by definition defend himself is bound to add to negative perceptions of judicial process in Russia.”
“We will support all efforts to build confidence in the Rule of Law in Russia and to ensure that such cases cannot happen again.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. is “disappointed” in Moscow’s latest action.
“The trial was a discredit to the efforts of those who continue to seek justice in his case,” she said.
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) July 11, 2013
Magnitsky result always expected, still horrific. A dead democracy convicting a dead man, demons chasing a ghost.
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) July 11, 2013
This childish lashing out by Putin only puts his imprimatur on the massive official fraud that Magnitsky uncovered. http://t.co/M2Q3zS3pZl
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) July 11, 2013
Read it and weep: “Magnitsky was spared a posthumous jail sentence after a Moscow judge acknowledged that he was already dead.”
— michaeldweiss (@michaeldweiss) July 11, 2013