House of Commons unanimously approves motion calling for Magnitsky sanctions on human rights violators

March 25, 2015

OTTAWA – The House of Commons today unanimously adopted a motion supporting sanctions against foreign nationals responsible for human rights violations. The motion – which was introduced by the Hon. Irwin Cotler, Liberal Critic for Rights and Freedoms and International Justice – specifically encourages sanctions against those responsible for the detention, torture, and 2009 death in prison of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered the largest tax fraud in Russian history.

Moreover, it encourages the government to explore appropriate sanctions against any foreign nationals responsible for violations of internationally recognized human rights in a foreign country, when authorities in that country are unable or unwilling to conduct a thorough, independent and objective investigation of the violations.

After the motion was passed, Parliamentarians joined with Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and the driving force behind the global campaign for justice for Sergei Magnitsky, to discuss the importance of using sanctions to combat human rights violations. Mr. Magnitsky was working as Mr. Browder’s attorney at the time of his arrest.

Parliamentarians in attendance included Mr. Cotler, Conservative Senator Raynell Andreychuk, Conservative MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs David Anderson, Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Marc Garneau, NDP MP Murray Rankin, Conservative Senator Linda Frum, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

“The unanimous support of this motion sends a clear signal to human rights violators in Russia and around the world that they will be held to account for their crimes,” said Cotler, chair of the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Inter-Parliamentary Group, which is comprised of 21 parliamentarians from 13 countries. “By imposing sanctions, we can impose meaningful penalties on human rights violators and deter future violations.”

“The Sergei Magnitsky case is today recognized as a symbol of what can happen when the principles of fundamental justice and rule of law are manipulated for personal gain,” said Senator Andreychuk, who has introduced a similar motion in the Senate. “I hope that the Senate will soon join with the House of Commons and parliaments around the world to express our commitment to accountability for foreign nationals who commit the most serious violations of human rights.”

“The tragedy of Sergei Magnitsky’s death in Russian custody and appalling posthumous show trial are stark symbols of the precipitous decline of Russian democracy,” added Ms. May. “Bill Browder’s inexhaustible efforts to commemorate the life of his lawyer and friend are laudable and instructive. I urge the Government to give full support to Mr. Cotler’s call for sanctions that will hold the perpetrators of Sergei Magnitsky’s torture accountable. Today’s motion is an important step in the international effort to achieve justice for Magnitsky and help to guarantee the human rights of all Russian citizens.”

Due to Browder’s efforts to bring Magnitsky’s tormentors to justice, the United States passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012, thereby imposing financial and travel restrictions on Russian officials suspected of being involved in the Magnitsky case. Legislation that would broaden the act to cover all human rights violators is currently before Congress.

Resolutions calling for Magnitsky sanctions have also been passed by the European Parliament, the British House of Commons, the Dutch Parliament, the OSCE, and others.