Opening remarks to the Magnitsky Act – behind the scenes

Let me welcome you all to this exclusive preview of Andrei Nekrasov’s film “The Magnitsky Act – behind the scenes”. This event is my personal initiative as a member of the European Parliament.

The story of the Russian lawyer Sergey Magnitsky’s prison death while in pre-trial detention has become ground-breaking in several ways. It has caused tremendous geopolitical tensions while it has become a bright light on a global scale for those who want to fight violations of human rights.

For me the most important thing is that new means to tackle serious human rights violations are badly needed. Despite international human rights law such breaches continue to occur, increasingly, as more and more countries are joining the club of repressive and authoritarian states, and deny and distort their commitments to the respect of universally agreed human rights.

Targeted, personal sanctions are appearing as perhaps the most promising instrument against such violations. The Magnitsky Act of the United States in 2012 is the lead example. Sanctions against those Russians who have been connected to the events leading to the death of Sergey Magnitsky have also been called for by the European Parliament in several resolutions, from 2010 on, so far without success.

I am probably the MEP who first took initiative to the Magnitsky sanctions. As a well-known critic of the Kremlin I have no reason to please the Russian media loyal to it, not now not in the future.

I believe that such targeted personal sanctions indeed deserve to be developed into an effective international instrument against grave human rights violations by states.

However they should satisfy several conditions and be based on the rule of law.

Firstly, they must be verifiable. The connection of the persons to the violation must be proven.
Secondly, they must be transparent so that everyone can judge the grounds.
Thirdly, there must provide an access to remedy in place for the targeted persons.
Fourthly, there should be a sunset clause or duration period for possible re-evaluation of the grounds.

This is precisely why the Magnitsky Act and the global attention and success of the Justice for Sergey Magnitsky Campaign deserve to be illuminated in depth, including behind the scenes. One of those scenes is the European Parliament.

Also human rights defenders – to which I am counted – and critics of the Kremlin – to which I am also counted, and have no intention to decline as long as we are encountered with that oppressive regime – must be able to take a critical look at their own presumptions. It is most important to rely on careful research and on different sources when proposing such measures as personal sanctions because they limit freedom of movement and choices of those targeted. All such measures must be strictly based on the principles of rule of law.

Let me also mention that I am one of the 17 MEPs on Russia’s so-called black list of 89 European politicians and other influential persons. I have never been communicated the individual justifications on why I am on that list. I have no access to a remedy to appeal such arbitrary decision.

This is in dire contradiction to the EU’s personal sanctions established on the grounds of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine. The individual justifications have been published in the Official Journal. The EU Court of Justice is dealing with the complaints.

Undoubtedly the debate on the Magnitsky Act will now continue. It is important to stay open to new information, and, if necessary, correct the course of events. All parties should be listened and sources verified.

Whatever this documentary might unearth, let me reiterate here my firm and unflinching opposition to Putin’s Russia – that of stratospheric levels of corruption, total disregard for the rule of law and widespread and systematic attacks against human rights defenders and other voices of dissent.

The opening remarks to the exclusive preview of “The Magnitsky Act – behind the scenes” on 27 April 2016

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