If the US Congress cares about human rights, it will replace Jackson-Vanik with the Magnitsky Act

Henry Jackson Society

The US House Committee on Foreign Affairs hosted a hearing yesterday that addressed human rights and corruption in Russia, and the future of US-Russian relations. The hearing paid particular attention to the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act (.pdf), currently under consideration by the US Congress, which seeks to impose travel bans and asset freezes against the individuals involved in the false imprisonment, torture and death of the whistleblower attorney Sergei Magnitsky. The act also carries a universal application against all individuals credibly suspected of human rights abuses.
The hearing highlighted one of the key issues facing contemporary US-Russian relations: how—or indeed, whether– the US can support human rights in Russia today. This question was embodied in the confluence of the debate over the Magnitsky Act and the proposed repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment.

The proceedings featured the testimony of Bill Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital who has spearheaded the campaign to bring the perpetrators of Sergei Magnitsky’s false imprisonment and death to justice. Sergei Magnitsky was an attorney employed to represent Hermitage Capital, who uncovered an elaborate ruse by government officials whereby Hermitage companies were fraudulently re-registered and used to apply for a tax refund of $230 million. Magnitsky went public with his accusations, and was subsequently pressured into confessing to the theft of the $230 million, and imprisoned without trial in November 2008.

During his detention, Magnitsky’s 20 written petitions for medical attention were ignored, and he was left untreated for medical conditions which eventually led to an agonising death—allegedly hastened by torture– on November 16, 2009. The case was subsequently subjected to an extensive cover-up by the Russian state, which has also indicated its intention to launch an unprecedented posthumous trial against Magnitsky.

The corruption and disregard for human rights and the rule of law which pervades Russia’s current ruling structure has made the possibility of securing justice for Sergei Magnitsky in Russia a virtual impossibility. Yet the Magnitsky Act—and the similar measures under consideration by parliaments around the world—hits the individuals involved in Magnitsky’s imprisonment and death where it hurts: depriving them of the opportunity to freely spend and stash their ill-gotten funds around the world. The implications of the legislation extend far beyond making life difficult for the individuals involved in the Magnitsky case: as I’ve argued in World Affairs Journal, the Magnitsky Act helps to loosen the bonds which tie mid-level functionaries and elites to Russia’s current power structure, by removing key incentives for cooperation.

The debate over the Magnitsky Act has been lent renewed vigour by the Obama administration’s strenuous lobbying to remove repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, in order to enable Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. The Jackson-Vanik amendment imposed trade restrictions on the Soviet Union in response to its restrictions on freedom of movement; despite being outdated, it has remained on the books—mostly for symbolic purposes—but has prevented the US from granting Russia the ‘permanent normal trade relations’ necessary for accession to the WTO. That restriction benefits neither Russia nor the United States, and as leading oppositionists have argued, inhibits the development of the middle class crucial to the development of democratic reform in Russia.

The Obama administration has rather cynically argued that trading Jackson-Vanik for a human-rights focused bill will not aid the democracy movement in Russia, with Ambassador Michael McFaul eliding any attempt to link the repeal of Jackson-Vanik and the passing of the Magnitsky Act, and stating that existing visa bans and legislation are sufficient.

Yet this argument ignores the central power of the Magnitsky Act: that the universality of the Magnitsky Act will chip away at the incentives to participate in human rights abuses, both in Russia and in authoritarian states around the world. Unsurprisingly, the same oppositionists who have argued for the repeal of Jackson-Vanik also contend that it should be replaced with the Magnitsky Act.

This is an opportune time to demonstrate America’s commitment to Russia’s economic development and the human rights of the Russian people by repealing Jackson-Vanik and passing the Magnitsky Act. If the US Congress is interested in aiding the forces of democratic reform in Russia—as the members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs appeared eager to do—it will move quickly to repeal and replace. займы без отказа займы на карту https://zp-pdl.com/apply-for-payday-loan-online.php https://zp-pdl.com/apply-for-payday-loan-online.php hairy woman

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