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US Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote on Magnitsky Act

June 19, 2012, 17:25 UTC+3
Moscow has warned Washington about the negative effect of the bill on bilateral relations
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WASHINGTON DC, June 19 (Itar-Tass) — The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the bill known as the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act, which provides for visa and economic sanctions against a number of Russian citizens suspected by Washington with implication in the death of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky during his imprisonment.

The vote was due originally in April, but active lobbying of the U.S. President Barack Obama Administration delayed it. Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry explained the delay with the need to overcome disagreements over certain provisions of the bill.

Senator Benjamin Cardin (a Democrat) is the main sponsor of the bill, which will bar the aforesaid Russians and their families from visiting the United States and freeze their accounts in U.S. banks. The Cardin draft compelled the U.S. state secretary and treasury secretary to publish the Magnitsky list within 90 days since the adoption of the bill, together with the list of persons responsible for torture and other serious abuse of human rights.

Many Congress members view the Magnitsky Act as a mandatory condition of the cancellation of the discriminative Jackson-Vanik Amendment and the granting of a normal trade partner status to Russia. The Obama administration had been opposing that link until recently.

Meanwhile, Moscow has warned Washington about the negative effect of the bill on bilateral relations.

Russia will retaliate the possible endorsement of ‘the Sergei Magnitsky bill’ by the U.S. Congress, Presidential Aide for International Affairs Yuri Ushakov said last weekend.

“Many people in the U.S. realize that the endorsement of this bill will harm relations with Russia. A lot of countries, maybe even the overwhelming majority, bar unwelcome elements from visiting them. That is done non-publicly as an absolutely normal international practice. Yet this case is a demonstrative anti-Russian step of the Congress. They are trying to give broad interpretation to the bill, so that it may be used whenever the Americans are dissatisfied with particular Russian steps on the international scene,” Ushakov said.

“Obviously, we will retaliate. Our measures are not made public so far. We would like to avoid these measures: if there is no bill there will be no measures and the atmosphere of bilateral relations will improve immediately,” he said.

“We insist in all-level contacts with the U.S. administration that it is impermissible to swap the Jackson-Vanik Amendment for the anti-Russian ‘Sergei Magnitsky bill’, which introduces visa restrictions and other sanctions under far-fetched ‘human rights’ pretexts. Washington must realize that we will have to take retaliation measures,” Ushakov said.

“Responding to last year’s U.S. decision to block the entry for eleven Russian officials allegedly involved in the ‘Magnitsky case’, we had to blacklist the same number of former and incumbent members of the U.S. administration. Those people bore a relation to high-profile violations of human rights, including abuse and torture of inmates at the Pentagon and CIA prisons in Guantanamo, Afghanistan’s Bagram and Iraqi Abu Ghraib,” he said.

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