Saturday, October 22, 2011

Unspecified US Officials Banned from Travel to Russia

Russia's Foreign Ministry announced earlier today (October 22) that it has banned entry into Russia US officials involved in killings and abductions in response to Washington's blacklisting of Russian officials involved in the prison death of a whistle-blower. Although the Russian list is not specific, it would unspecified US officials it claims were involved in prison torture, killings of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq or abductions and abuse of Russian nationals in the US.

The action is in response to the U.S. State Department's decision in July to ban entry to dozens of unidentified Russian officials allegedly involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian jail in 2009, after reportedly discovering that police officers were involved in an illegal takeover of the assets of the company he worked for to reclaim US$230 million in taxes from the state.

COMMENT: As background, in late 2010, international attention to the matter intensified, with the European Parliament calling for 60 officials believed to be connected to Magnitsky's death to be banned from entering the EU and the Parliament of Canada resolving to deny visas to and freeze the Canadian assets of allegedly involved officials. The EU Parliament has also urged members to freeze assets of officials, while similar measures are under consideration in the US.

In October 2010, Senator John S. McCain co-sponsored the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act, which would forbid entry to the US to 60 individuals named in court documents related to the Magnitsky case. In July 2011, the US revealed that dozens of Russian officials were barred from entering the US for their possible involvement in the detention of Magnitsky.

Additionally, the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011, introduced by Senator Ben Cardin in May, would freeze the U.S.-assets of Russian officials suspected of gross human rights violations and bar them from entering the US.

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