29.3.12

Russia Strikes Again




Once again, I am drawn back to news of corruption and murder from Russia, where it seems death is an instrument frequently used to ensure the silence that protects the guilty.  Though this story has been gaining ground, I only stumbled across it.   My interest piqued from the the title of an opinion article from the Wall Street Journal comparing Mr. Magnitsky to Biko.  (Biko, refers to Steve Biko, another story of grave injustice that is slipping through the historical cracks, nearly forgotten by an entire generation.) In similar fashion I only ever discovered Biko's story through a song by Peter Gabriel, written in 1987.   Like Steven Biko, Sergei's death has become a catalyst for international action to bring justice for a single man killed for his tenacity for speaking the truth.  In his article, author Bret Stephens implies that victims like Biko and Sergei are a necessary part of the process of exposing how deep corruption goes.  I myself would prefer that no one should ever need to endure unspeakable suffering for simply doing their job.

Despite the fact that Sergei was killed in 2009, tension has been mounting as Russian court has recently decided to prosecute the case against him post-humously (nearly unprecedented in Russian history). Following his death in prison, officials have said the cause of his death in custody was a rupture to his abdominal membrane, but later that day they revised their story, saying he had died of a heart attack.  The exact circumstances of his death are unknown, and the prison authorities refused his family’s request to conduct an independent autopsy. His diaries are reported to be missing.

In the words of those whom he worked for:

Sergei wasn't involved in politics, he wasn't an oligarch, and he wasn't a human rights activist. He was just a highly competent professional -- the kind of person one could call up as the workday was finishing at 7 p.m. with a legal question and he would cancel his dinner plans and stay in the office until midnight to figure out the answer. He was a smart and honest man working hard to better himself and to make a good life for his wife and two kids.

Western and European nations, such as Sweden, put forward an application for sanctions on Russian officials accused in the Magnitsky case.    In mid-December 2011, the European Parliament passed the resolution allowing the 60 officials implicated in Sergei's death to be banned by member states and their assets to be seized.  Canada has already put forth a similar motion in Parliament, and the US is considering equivalent action.

A powerful quote from the Swedish parliamentary petition:  "...Law and jus­tice in Rus­sia – and lastly jus­tice for Sergei Mag­nit­sky – is a ques­tion that con­cerns the entire cir­cle of mem­ber states in the Coun­cil of Europe and the WTO, of which Rus­sia is a mem­ber. The out­come of this case will estab­lish the country’s [Russia's] stand­ing as a state gov­erned by law”

In January 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez, opened an investigation into Magnitsky's treatment and death

UN Official Speaks Out  - The Moscow Times
They Killed My Lawyer - Hermitage Capital Management's William Browder
Bret Stephens Compares Magnitsky to Biko - WSJ
Posthumous Prosecution - The Jurist

HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT JUSTICE FOR SERGEI

The report below covers highlights what Sergei exposed, and the trail of injustice that led to his imprisonment, alleged torture, and death:

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