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Helsinki Commission to Investigate Kremlin Pressure on UN Anti-Corruption Agency

Plight of Bitkov Family Offers Clues to How Russian Government Undermines International Institutions

WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing:

THE LONG ARM OF INJUSTICE: DID A UN COMMISSION FOUNDED TO FIGHT CORRUPTION HELP THE KREMLIN DESTROY A RUSSIAN FAMILY?

Friday, April 27, 2018
9:15 a.m.
Rayburn House Office Building
Room 2172

Live Webcast: www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission

Witnesses scheduled to testify include:

  • Victoria Sandoval, criminal and human rights attorney representing the Bitkov family
  • Rolando Alvarado, attorney representing the Bitkov family; professor of law and founding partner, Corpolegal
  • Bill Browder, founding director of the Global Magnitsky Campaign for Justice

Additional witnesses may be added.

In 2008, Igor and Irina Bitkov, along with their daughter Anastasia, fled Russia in fear for their lives. Having seen their successful company bankrupted in a textbook raider scheme, their daughter kidnapped and raped, and facing death threats, the Bitkovs took refuge and began a new life with new identities in Guatemala.

The family now finds itself separated, imprisoned in squalid Guatemalan jail cells, and facing nearly twenty years in prison for alleged paperwork irregularities normally punishable by a simple fine. There are grave reasons to question the role of the government of Russia and the UN’s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) in their imprisonment.

“I am deeply concerned about grave injustices suffered by the Bitkov family—brutalized in Russia, now apparently re-victimized in Guatemala, where they languish in jail,” said Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), who will chair the hearing. “Evidence indicating that the government of Russia may have enlisted the UN’s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala to persecute this family is troubling and must be thoroughly scrutinized.”

The hearing will seek answers to key questions: Did the Kremlin enlist CICIG in its vendetta to destroy the Bitkovs? Is this another example of the frightening reach of Putin’s government and its ability to co-opt institutions designed to further the rule of law, as it has Interpol and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties? Has the government of Russia corrupted a UN anti-corruption agency? What does this teach about the government of Russia, the UN, and the global fight against the scourge of corruption?

The Helsinki Commission will examine the specifics of the Bitkov case, including Russian influence on CICIG and Guatemala’s Attorney General’s office, and review policy options to protect U.S. taxpayer-supported institutions from abuse and undue pressure from authoritarian governments.

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