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WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), today joined 14 other senators to introduce a bill that would freeze assets and block visas of individuals who commit gross human-rights violations against whistleblowers and activists in the Russian Federation.  Other co-sponsors of the bill include: Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Mark Begich (D-AK), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011 seeks to combat what has become a toxic atmosphere of impunity in Russia where despite occasional rhetoric from the Kremlin, the authorities have failed to follow through with meaningful action to stem rampant corruption or bring the perpetrators of numerous and high-profile crimes to justice.

“While this bill bears Sergei Magnitsky’s name in honor of his sacrifice, the language addresses the overall issue of the erosion of the rule of law and human rights in Russia,” said Senator Cardin, who in April 2010 called for a visa ban on 60 Russian officials involved in the torture and death of Magnitsky. “It offers hope to those who suffer in silence, whose cases may be less known or not known at all.”

Senator Cardin’s bill targets those involved in Sergei Magnitsky’s case and also targets individuals “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of human rights.” The bill also seeks to protect individuals who expose illegal activity by officials of the Government of the Russian Federation as well as extend protection to those who advocate for freedom of expression, religion or other democratic principles.

In introducing the bill, Senator Cardin said: “Private and even public expressions of concern are not a substitute for a real policy nor are they enough, it’s time for consequences. The bill I introduced today sends a strong message to those who are currently acting with impunity in Russia that there will be consequences for corruption should you wish to travel to and invest in the United States. Such actions will provide needed moral support for those in Russia doing the really heavy-lifting in fighting corruption and promoting the rule of law, but they will also protect our own interests – values or business related.”

Key Points of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011:

  • Makes an alien ineligible for entry or admission to the United States when the Secretary of State in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury determines such alien to be: (1) an individual who was responsible for the detention, abuse, or death of Sergei Magnitsky or participated in efforts to conceal the legal liability of any person for the detention, abuse, or death of Sergei Magnitsky; (2) an individual who conspired to defraud the Russian Federation of taxes on corporate profits through fraudulent transactions and lawsuits against the Hermitage foreign investment company; (3) an individual who was responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of human rights committed against any persons seeking to expose illegal actions of officials of the Russian government or to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to: (1) instruct domestic financial institutions and agencies to take specified measures if the Secretary makes a money laundering determination relating to such conspiracy, and (2) freeze and prohibit U.S. property transactions of an individual who is prohibited from entering the United States or acts as an agent for such an individual.
  • Requires a report to Congress not later than 180 days after enactment and annually thereafter.

Please click here for Chairman Cardin’s floor statement on the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011.

Please click here for a PDF of the bill. 

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