Congressman McGovern remarks on the Rule for HR 6156, the Magnitsky Bill

Congressman McGovern remarks on the Rule for HR 6156, the Magnitsky Bill

I thank the gentleman from California, the honorable Chairman of the Rules Committee, for yielding me the customary 30 minutes.  And I thank him for bringing this rule to the floor.  He and I co-authored a “Dear Colleague” in support of the underlying legislation, and it was a pleasure to work with him on this important bill.

M. Speaker, H.R. 6156 joins together two pieces of legislation that deal with trade and human rights in the Russian Federation.  The distinguished Chairman has provided a clear description of the provisions in the bill that grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations – or PNTR – to the nations of Moldova and the Russian Federation.  It is fairly straightforward.

Simply put, after more than 18 years of negotiations, Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in August. That membership will require Russia – for the first time – to play by the same rules of trade as the United States and virtually every other nation in the world.

But, under WTO rules, the United States cannot take advantage of Russia’s WTO membership unless and until Congress grants Russia “permanent normal trade relations,” replacing the 1974 special bilateral agreement with Russia known as the “Jackson-Vanik” amendment. 

The United States is not required to change any U.S. law as a result of Russia’s WTO membership, other than this change to the 1974 trade law. This is in contrast to bilateral free trade agreements, where the United States is required to provide duty-free treatment.

If that were all there was to H.R. 6156, it would pass or fail along familiar lines of trade-related legislation.  But H.R. 6156 will become known as a landmark piece of trade legislation not because it grants PNTR for Russia and Moldova, but because it includes Title IV, the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.

Let me share with my colleagues just a little bit about the life – and death – of Sergei Magnitsky, in whose honor this section of the bill is named.

After exposing the largest tax fraud in Russian history, tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was wrongly arrested and tortured in a Russian prison.  Six months later, he became seriously ill.  He was denied medical attention despite 20 formal requests.  On the night of November 16, 2009 – three years ago tomorrow – his condition became critical.  Instead of being treated in a hospital, he was taken to an isolation cell, chained to a bed, and beaten by eight prison guards for one hour and eighteen minutes, which resulted in his death.

Sergei Magnitsky was 37 years old.  He left behind a wife and two children.  Those responsible for his abuse and murder have yet to be punished.  And sadly, he is not alone. His story is emblematic of corruption, human rights abuses and impunity in Russia.

Since the death of Sergei Magnitsky, the human rights situation inside the Russian Federation has continued to deteriorate.

Russia’s parliamentary elections last December were marked by mass protests over alleged electoral fraud. Since Vladimir Putin was re-elected president in May 2012, his government has taken a harsh and confrontational approach to on-going protests, cracking down on the Russian people’s growing discontent with corruption and creeping authoritarianism. Russian authorities have used excessive force to break up peaceful demonstrations and detained and raided the homes of opposition leaders.

Russian civil society has also been a target of increasing repression. Beginning in June and with astonishing speed, the Russian Duma passed a series of draconian laws that restrict freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly.  Many observers fear that these laws will be used as a political weapon to stifle criticism of the government. They make it harder for Russian civil society to operate effectively and create a climate of fear and self-censorship. Civil society’s sense of isolation is only compounded by the Russian government’s recent decision to expel organizations like USAID from the country.

In addition, journalists and human rights activists continue to face grave dangers in pursuing their work. Just last month, Tanya Lokshina (LOK-shin-ah) with the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch received a series of threats to herself and her unborn child, most likely in connection to her efforts to expose impunity for human rights abuses. Her experience is not unique. While Russian authorities have tried to silence critics, NGOs and independent media, the world is still awaiting justice for many violent attacks on dissidents and journalists.

I would like to note for my colleagues that today, at 2:00 PM, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will be holding a hearing on human rights in the Russian Federation and Ms. Lokshina (LOK-shin-ah) will be one of the witnesses.

In this context, the story of Sergei Magnitsky remains especially important. At a time when the human rights situation in the country is going from bad to worse, it is all the more important to hold Russian human rights violators accountable.

The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which is Title IV of H.R. 6156, as reported by the Rules Committee, places an asset freeze and visa ban on those individuals responsible for Sergei Magnitsky’s torture and death, as well as on Russian officials engaged in corruption or gross violations of human rights.  These measures provide a degree of accountability and reinforce the Administration’s toolkit to respond to crimes by individual government officials.

Passage of the Magnitsky Act sends a clear message to the Russian people that we support their fundamental human rights.  Importantly, it also sends a strong message to those Russian officials who support the rule of law and who reject corruption and human rights abuses.  It lets them know that their efforts and their achievements are valued by the United States and the international community.  Only individuals within the Russian government who abuse their office and engage in corruption and human rights crimes will find their assets and visas under scrutiny and subject to U.S. sanction.

Let me be clear:  I would not be supporting PNTR for the Russian Federation if it did not include Title IV, the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act.  I urge all my colleagues to support the Magnitsky Act by voting for the underlying legislation, H.R. 6156.

 M. Speaker, from the beginning, the Magnitsky Act has been a bipartisan and bicameral effort. The final Magnitsky language in Title IV of H.R. 6156 is the result of genuine collaboration and compromise.  I would like to especially thank Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor, Majority Whip McCarthy, Democratic Leader Pelosi, Democratic Whip Hoyer, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen and Ranking Member Berman for all their support in drafting the bill under consideration by the House this week.  It has been a pleasure working with you.

I believe the Magnitsky provisions are strong, flexible enough to be well-implemented, and allow us to have a cooperative relationship with Russia on trade and other issues, while holding human rights violators, including those responsible for the brutal treatment and death of Sergei Magnitsky, accountable.

As I stated earlier, I would not be supporting PNTR for the Russian Federation if this bill did not include the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act. I ask all my House colleagues to support the Magnitsky Act and approve H.R. 6156. buy viagra online займы без отказа https://zp-pdl.com/get-quick-online-payday-loan-now.php https://zp-pdl.com/apply-for-payday-loan-online.php микрозаймы онлайн

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