Posts Tagged ‘juleanna glover’

April 2013

‘Magnitsky List’: Powerful, if not perfect


The State Department’s “Magnitsky list” – sanctioned last Friday by the Obama administration, officially branding 18 Russian government officials as gross humans rights violators – was rightly criticized as inadequate and weak by the congressional authors of the original law authorizing the creation of the list.

Congressional champions of the Magnitsky Act pointed out that State seems to be purposely misreading the law, minimizing the act’s original power to punish those who have committed egregious human rights violations by applying the criteria only to those criminals who might be dumb enough to maintain financial assets in the United States.

The Magnitsky law was born out of Senator Ben Cardin’s (D-Md.) frustration with Secretary Hillary Clinton’s dismissal of his recommendation that State blacklist 60 Russian government officials connected to the death of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky. Clinton’s State Department was truculently opposed not just to the Magnitsky act, but to naming and shaming even the most obvious of those who now reside on the Magnitsky list.

Although the critics are right to condemn the list as inadequate, the unveiling of the list underscores a more important point. Under John Kerry’s leadership, the State Department is sending a strong message that the era of appeasing kleptocratic dictators is over.

This particular law is limited to Russia, but efforts are afoot to expand its reach. Now every letter Congress writes to State – previously batted back with polite but meaningless form letters – has the potential to grow into a new round of Magnitsky-style laws sanctioning corrupt officials in governments around the world. It will have the most impact when human rights activists leverage the “Magnitsky magnifying effect” to name, shame and seize the assets of autocrats previously unknown to the public. Public opinion is a powerful tool: it can and should be leveraged to fight corruption.

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