European Parliament’s Sanctions against Officials Responsible for Death of Sergei Magnitsky

The European Parliament has backed a resolution that calls on member states to introduce sanctions against Russian officials involved in the case of Sergei Magnitsky. The document is destined to bring a blast of fury from Moscow.

The sanctions, including an EU entry ban and a freeze on bank accounts are aimed directly at individuals: investigators, prosecutors, jailers and taxmen who may or may not be guilty of the lawyer’s death – as if Russia does not have a legal system of its own. It denies that Russia is capable, or willing, to investigate crimes that take place on its territory when high-ranking officials are involved.

We talk to Marietje Schaake, an MEP from the Netherlands and an author of the resolution.

Marietje Schaake
Member of European Parliament

RussianLawOnline: None of those Russian officials accused of involvement in the death of Sergei Magnitsky have ever been convicted of the crime in court or, in fact, by any authority. It may well be that among those 60 people there are those who are completely innocent.

Generally, the resolution seems justified, yet on a personal level it may turn out unfair and strange. Many would say that the European Parliament has created a precedent of punishing people without even hearing their side of the story. What would you say to this?

Marietje Schaake: The reason why none of the officials accused of involvement in the death of Sergei Magnitsky have been convicted of the crime by the court of any authority, or have not been able to tell their side of the story is because there has not been an independent and transparent investigation into those who are involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky. The European Parliament calls for an independent and transparent investigation.

The European Parliament has not given a final verdict to anyone. It calls to consider imposing an EU entry ban for Russian officials involved in the Magnitsky case. We hope this will not be necessary, and Russia will take immediate steps to transparently and independently investigate wrongdoing and to end impunity in this case.

Does the resolution of the European Parliament imply that Russia lacks an adequate legal system of its own?

The resolution calls for justice and the rule of law to be upheld, and existing laws to be executed. Russia furthermore has committed itself to a number of international treaties and standards. The European Parliament asks Russia to stick to the commitments it has itself made.

Do you expect that the resolution will be enforced by the member states?

It is my hope that Russia will seek to transparently and effectively investigate the case and hold the people responsible for the abuse of human rights and consequent death of Sergei Magnitsky accountable. Governments that have legitimacy by providing for the wellbeing of the citizens they represent do not need to use criminal measures to remain in power or to silence opposition.

I believe Russia is at a cross roads, and it is important for its relations with Europe and the rest of the world to choose justice over impunity, to uphold the rule of law, to work transparently, and to respect universal human rights. This is needed in more cases than the Magnitsky case.