Government declared support for human rights sanctions in March, but has yet to take action
MP Irwin Cotler today introduced the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (C-689), which would allow for the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes against human rights violators. In March, the House of Commons unanimously endorsed a motion by Cotler calling for such sanctions, and a similar motion introduced by Sen. Raynell Andreychuk passed the Senate in May, but the government has yet to heed Parliament’s call.
“I was very encouraged when members of all parties came together earlier this spring to support these critical measures,” said Cotler, the Liberal Critic for Rights and Freedoms and International Justice. “But it is deeply disappointing that the government still hasn’t moved forward with legislation.”
Magnitsky laws are named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who blew the whistle on large-scale tax fraud committed by Russian officials before being detained, tortured, and killed in prison in 2009. He was posthumously convicted, in a Kafkaesque cover-up, of the very corruption he had exposed.
Continued Cotler: “In Ottawa in 2012, I stood with Boris Nemtsov, the leader of Russia’s democratic opposition, to call for Magnitsky legislation; Boris was murdered in February. In 2013, I stood in Ottawa with Sergei Magnitsky’s last employer, Bill Browder, and with another Russian opposition leader, Vladimir Kara Murza, to make the same appeal; Bill has been repeatedly threatened, and Vladimir is recovering from an apparent poisoning. What else has to happen before Canada and other members of the international community take action commensurate with the seriousness of the situation?”
Resolutions calling for Magnitsky sanctions have been passed by the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and legislatures in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, the United States, and Canada. When the Canadian motion passed the House, MPs and Senators from all parties – including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Anderson – held a joint press conference to mark the occasion. Thus far, however, only the U.S. has moved from words to deeds.
“There is still time for the government to either take over my bill or pass similar legislation of its own,” urged Cotler, “both out of respect for the will of Parliament, and out of solidarity with the victims of human rights violations – and those who struggle valiantly on their behalf – in Russia and around the world.”