Lantos Foundation Applauds Visa Restrictions for Russian Human Rights Abusers

Calls on Obama to Back Stronger Sanctions

CONCORD - The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice today commended the US Government for its decision to bar dozens of Russian officials from the United States for their involvement in the imprisonment and death of the young Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was involved in uncovering a massive case of official corruption and tax fraud. At the same time, the Lantos Foundation insisted the State Department’s recent action must not be a substitute for more comprehensive and robust sanctions addressing this and other widespread human rights abuses in Russia.

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation, said “We welcome the decision by the Obama Administration to deny visas to Russian officials implicated in the intentional death of Sergei Magnitsky while he was in detention on false charges. However, our support for the Administration’s action is predicated on the assumption that this will be merely a “first step” in promoting a more robust human rights policy with regard to Russia."
Mr. Magnitsky, a young lawyer who exposed a case of massive tax fraud and corruption involving Russian officials, was subsequently arrested by the officials he had exposed and ultimately died while in custody. The Lantos Foundation supports the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act which goes farther than the recent State Department action in not only denying visas to Russian officials involved in the Magnitsky’s death, but also freezes their assets. The act would extend these sanctions to officials implicated in other human rights abuses involving the deaths of human rights activists and journalists.

In her recent testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dr. Lantos Swett said “We must get away from the notion that we can delink Russia’s actions on human rights and justice from all of our other interests.  When we delink those values that we hold to be profound, we begin to go off track.”

“The tragic deaths of Sergei Magnitsky and others as well as the ongoing political and legal persecution of Russia’s most prominent political prisoner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, provide ample and disturbing evidence of the corruption and legal nihilism that characterize Russia today. It is time for the United States to speak and act with clarity and conviction in insisting on accountability for those who engage in or condone these abuses,” Lantos Swett concluded.