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2019 Lantos Human Rights Prize to be Awarded to Bill Browder
Father of Magnitsky Sanctions Honored for Dedication to Human Rights Enforcement
The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice announced today that their highest honor, the Lantos Human Rights Prize, will be awarded in 2019 to Bill Browder. As the driving force behind the Magnitsky Sanctions, the most consequential enforcement mechanism of the modern human rights movement, Browder will receive the award in Washington, DC on September 27, 2019.
Sergei Magnitsky, an idealistic young Russian lawyer who uncovered massive tax fraud perpetrated by Russian officials, was, in a truly Kafkaesque twist, charged with the very offenses he had uncovered. In an effort to cover up the crimes he had exposed, Magnitsky was sent to prison in 2008 where he later died from abuse, neglect, and mistreatment. Bill Browder, for whom Magnitsky had worked, vowed to dedicate himself to seeking justice for Sergei and this crusade has made him a global human rights leader. First passed by the US Congress in 2012, the Magnitsky Act (later the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act), authorizes sanctions of government officials implicated in serious human rights abuses. Sanctions can include freezing of US based assets and travel restrictions. Since its enactment, the US Government has sanctioned more than 70 officials in over a dozen different countries. Most recently, Magnitsky sanctions were enacted to penalize those Saudi Arabian officials implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Bill Browder’s campaign for justice and accountability did not stop in the United States. Since 2012, similar Magnitsky laws have been enacted in Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom. Despite fervent opposition from Russia and other lawless regimes that prefer to have their human rights abuses go unnoticed and unpunished, the European Union and many of its member countries are considering the passage of their own Magnitsky laws.
The incredible leadership and courage demonstrated by Bill Browder to honor his friend and hold accountable those who commit grievous crimes has come at a steep personal cost. Browder remains a top public enemy of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has had multiple bogus charges brought against him in Russian courts. Putin has also tried to drag Browder back to Russia where he could be unjustly imprisoned. He has done this through rampant abuse of the Interpol Red Notice system which is being used by the world’s worst thugs and dictators to hound and persecute rights activists around the world. Putin, who is desperate to silence Bill Browder, even suggested he might “cooperate” in the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 Presidential election if the US would help return London-based Browder to Russia.
Lantos Foundation President Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett said in a statement regarding the 2019 Lantos Prize:
“Bill Browder’s commitment to honoring Sergei Magnitsky, his drive to create and enact this vital sanctions act, and his unwavering dedication to standing up to injustices wherever they happen in the world is both noteworthy and inspiring. Because of Bill Browder’s tireless work, human rights defenders have a powerful new tool in the arsenal of justice. Equally importantly, those who act as the thugs and enforcers for despotic governments across the world will now face consequences for their despicable human rights abuses. Thanks to Bill Browder’s efforts, they will face a measure of accountability – if not in their home countries, then at least in the countries where they have long felt free to invest and frolic. Browder’s ingenuity, bravery, and grit make him a worthy recipient of the Lantos Human Rights Prize.”
Upon learning of his selection for the Lantos Prize, Mr. Browder issued the following statement:
“I am honored and humbled that the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice has chosen me for this important and prestigious prize and accept it with great pride.”
The Lantos Foundation established the Lantos Human Rights Prize in 2009 to honor and bring attention to heroes of the human rights movement. It is awarded annually to an individual or organization that best exemplifies the Foundation’s mission, namely to be a vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom, and justice in every corner of the world. The prize also serves to honor the memory and legacy of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress and a leading advocate for human rights during his nearly three decades as a U.S. Representative. Past recipients of the Prize include His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Professor Elie Wiesel, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Iraqi Parliamentarian Vian Dakhil, Father Patrick Desbois, “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina, and Hong Kong Democracy activist Joshua Wong.