Sergei Magnitsky was a 37-year-old attorney in Russia who uncovered a plot so sinister that he was thrown in prison. He found, during the course of his work, that some officials were involved in an alleged scheme to embezzle hundreds of millions of dollars from the Russian treasury.
When his firm, Hermitage, contacted the government to expose the plot, Magnitsky himself was investigated and the chain of events that would follow led to his death in prison where he was denied medical treatment and beaten by prison guards. Sadly, he died days before the one year limit that he could be held without trial.
An article by Owen Matthews titled, "There's something rotten in the state of Russia" published in the Spectator reported:
"According to [Magnitsky's] heartbreaking prison diary, investigators repeatedly tried to persuade him to give testimony against Hermitage and drop the accusations against the police and tax authorities. When Magnitsky refused, he was moved to more and more horrible sections of the prison, and ultimately denied the medical treatment which could have saved his life."
The article is no longer available online, but is referenced here.
After the tragedy of Magnitsky's untimely demise (he left behind a wife and two children), H.R. 6365 was introduced in the United States (and died) in the effort to assure that anyone considered to have played a role in the scandal and the death of Magnitsky would not be allowed to enter the United States or make use of her financial institutions, until Magnitsky's death was fully investigated. The bill was reintroduced as H.R. 1575.
The Senate Foreign Relation Committee unanimously passed the bill last week and unfortunately, passing this particular legislation would not make Russia happy, but it would be the right thing to do to show the world that America respects human rights and dignity.
President Obama has shown his opposition to this bill, and Russia Today reports that the head of Russia's Federation Council has stated that the passage of the bill would cause a "rift" between Russia and the United States and also called the bill "barbaric."
Additionally, the Pakistan Observer reports that "Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during talks on Saturday in Saint Petersburg that "the possible endorsement in the United States of the 'Magnitsky law' will bring serious damage to relations between our countries."
America needs to stand for human rights and dignity around the world, and despite President Obama's "reset" policy toward Russia, hopefully he will stand strong and work with the bipartisan supporters of H. R. 1575. Sergei Magnitsky and his family deserve justice.