Condemnation of Russian Corruption Act
An Act to condemn corruption and impunity in Russia in the case and death of Sergei Magnitsky
Irwin Cotler Liberal
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
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December 11th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
Vladimir Kara-Murza Member, Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Messrs. Vice-Chairmen, honourable members of the subcommittee. Thank you very much for holding this timely and important meeting today and for the opportunity to appear before you.
The tragic story of Sergei Magnitsky, whose only “crime” was to stand against corruption, is unfortunately symptomatic of the general situation in Vladimir Putin's Russia, where state-sanctioned theft and extortion, politically motivated prosecutions, wrongful imprisonment, police abuse, media censorship, suppression of peaceful assembly, and electoral fraud have become the norm. According to the World Bank, corruption now engulfs 48% of the entire Russian economy. During Mr. Putin's rule, his close entourage came to control large sectors of the economy, most notably the energy sector, and the president's personal friends have become, in dollar terms, billionaires.
At the very same time, the judicial and legislative branches were turned into rubber stamps. Many of those who refused to toe the line ended up in prison—suffice it to mention Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Independent television channels were shut down, opposition rallies were repeatedly dispersed by force, and elections were routinely falsified. No Russian vote has been judged free and fair by either the OSCE or the Council of Europe since the year 2000.
The tragic story of Sergei Magnitsky, whose only crime was to stand against corruption, is unfortunately symptomatic of the general situation in Vladimir Putin's Russia, where state-sanctioned extortion and theft, political persecution, wrongful imprisonment, police abuse, media censorship, suppression of peaceful assembly and electoral fraud have become the norm.
If that is possible, the situation in our country is growing worse. Just in the last few months, Mr. Putin has signed a barrage of new repressive laws. The fines for “violations” during public street rallies were increased to $10,000. That is ten times Russia's average monthly salary, and of course it is the authorities who decide what constitutes a violation. Non-governmental organizations that accept funding from abroad are being forced to tag themselves as “foreign agents”, and this includes such reputable human rights groups as Memorial, founded by Andrei Sakharov, while the definition of “high treason” in the penal code, which is punishable by up to 20 years in jail, has been broadened to such an extent that it can include almost any contact with a foreign country, a foreign organization, or an international organization.
Police also this year conducted raids on the homes of leading opposition figures, including former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who was a guest here at this Parliament just a few months ago. Opposition leaders, such as Alexei Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov, found themselves under criminal investigation. Perhaps most incredibly, a Russian opposition activist, Leonid Razvozzhayev, was recently kidnapped on the sovereign territory of Ukraine, forcibly brought back to Russia, and tortured into “confessing his guilt”.
Needless to say, there are no domestic legal mechanisms for Russian citizens to defend themselves against such abuses. Fortunately, there are international norms. The Moscow document of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, to which both Russia and Canada are parties, explicitly states that, “issues relating to human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law...are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concerned.”
It is no secret that a great number of Russian officials, while preferring the style of governance of Zimbabwe or Belarus at home, are choosing the countries of North America and western Europe when it comes to their bank deposits, their vacation homes, or schooling for their children. This double standard must end. It is time for some personal accountability for those who continue to violate the rights and plunder the resources of Russian citizens. The Russian opposition and civil society, as well as a strong plurality of Russian citizens, according to most recent opinion polls, back measures such as the Magnitsky Act, which was passed by the United States Congress last week. These are measures that introduce targeted visa sanctions and asset freezes on those implicated in the case of Sergei Magnitsky, as well as those implicated in other cases of gross violations of human rights in the Russian Federation, in particular, as the new American law mentions, the rights to freedom of association and assembly, fair trials, and democratic elections.
It is no secret that a great number of Russian officials, while preferring the style of governance of Zimbabwe or Belarus at home, are choosing the countries of North America and western Europe when it comes to their bank accounts, their places of residence or schooling for their children.
This double standard must end. It is time for some personal accountability for those who continue to violate the rights and plunder the resources of Russian citizens.
A similar bill, Bill C-339, has been introduced in this House by the honourable member for Mount Royal, Mr. Cotler, a member of the subcommittee. In our view, in the view of the Russian opposition, this is a much needed and long overdue measure that deserves full attention, and it could be strengthened even further by including an asset freeze provision and by covering other human rights violations beyond those in the case of Sergei Magnitsky.
Mr. Chairman, one year ago this week, 100,000 people gathered on Bolotnaya Square in central Moscow, literally just across the river from the Kremlin walls, to demand free elections, the rule of law, the release of political prisoners, and democratic reforms. This was the start of the largest wave of pro-democracy demonstrations in Russia since the fall of communism in 1991.
Russia is changing, and the task of bringing this democratic change to our country is, of course, the task for us, the Russian opposition, and not for any outside players. But if the world's democratic nations, if our friends and allies here in the Canadian Parliament, want to show solidarity with the Russian people and want to stand up for the universal values of human rights, human dignity, and democracy, I think the best way to do it is to tell those crooks, those murderers, those abusers that they are not welcome in your country.
Thank you very much.
Condemnation of Russian Corruption Act
October 28th, 2011 / noon
Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-339, An Act to condemn corruption and impunity in Russia in the case and death of Sergei Magnitsky.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a bill entitled an act to condemn corruption and impunity in Russia in the case and death of Sergei Magnitsky.
The tragic torture and death in detention of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered the largest tax fraud in Russian history and paid for it with his life, is a looking glass into the pervasive culture of corruption and impunity implicating senior government officials in Russia today.
The bill notes that no objective official investigation has been conducted by the Russian government into the Magnitsky case, despite extensive documented evidence incriminating Russian officials in serious human rights violations, in the embezzlement of funds from the Russian treasury, and in the retaliation against Mr. Magnitsky, nor have the individual persons been identified, apprehended and brought to justice in Russia.
Accordingly, this bill establishes a process by which the Canadian government must prepare a list of individuals responsible for the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, for the conspiracy to defraud the Russian federation of taxes paid by the foreign investment company known as Hermitage, and for efforts to shield those culpable of those gross violations of human rights. It imposes restrictions on the listed individuals and their family members, such that they are inadmissible for the purposes of entering or remaining in Canada.
The ongoing impunity, and indeed, in this instance shocking impunity, regarding Russian officials is as scandalous as it is shocking. This legislation would uphold the rule of law, would assure Russian human rights defenders that they are not alone, would protect Canadian business interests in Russia, and in particular would remember and honour the heroic sacrifice of Sergei Magnitsky. He acted on behalf of all of us in his protection of the rule of law.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)