As we come to the end of this trip, we are more sobered and more filled with determination to redouble our efforts in the fight to make respect for human rights and justice a reality.
Yesterday in meetings with William Browder and the lawyers for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, we were forcefully reminded of the most important fact of all - each one of these cases of abuse involves a real human being who faces terrible consequences because they live in a country where the rule of law is missing in action.
William Browder, a passionate, brilliant, and enormously successful British investor is waging an unrelenting campaign to bring some measure of justice to the criminals who were responsible for the false imprisonment, torture, and death of his young Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky brought to light the criminal theft of $230 million dollars by government bureaucrats from the Russian people themselves. He has now paid for his diligent investigations with his life. Mr. Browder, his friend and employer, has vowed that he will do everything in his power to see to it that his friend’s tormentors do not go unpunished. Just yesterday the European Union Parliament passed a tough sanctions bill against 60 high level Russian officials implicated in the Magnitsky murder by an impressive almost 3-1 margin. Let’s hope that the 116 Members who voted to protect the assets and vacation trips of these co-conspirators to murder have a hard time sleeping at night. In the United States Congress, Senator Ben Cardin is spearheading an effort to similarly identify and sanction these Russian officials. He deserves our strong support and our thanks.
Mr. Khodorkovsky’s lawyers spoke not only of their marathon campaign to gain eventual release and justice for Mikhail but also of their sleepless nights worrying over the fate of dozens of additional “hostages” ( their word not ours) that they fear the Russian government will act against. It was chilling and a vivid reminder that the defense of fundamental rights is not a business for cowards.
We are in the season when we celebrate the miracle of lights that shone in the darkness for 8 improbable days and the thrilling message from the herald angels of “peace on earth and goodwill to men.” The brave men and women who we have learned of on this trip are themselves lights that, against all odds, continue to shine in the darkness. May we each in the coming year borrow a small fraction of their courage and conviction to try to build a world where peace and goodwill prevail.
While traveling, we’ve been following both American and international news coverage. Click below to read a speech Senator John McCain delivered Thursday morning on the floor of the United States Senate about the Khodorkovsky case.