Legal nihilism exposed: Magnitsky posthumously found guilty of fraud
– The guilty verdicts of lawyer and world known whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky and the man he represented, William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Management Capital, by a Moscow court on 11 July 2013 represents a new low point in Russia’s efforts to distort facts and cover-up the real wrongdoing in the case, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. – The Magnitsky case implicates Russian authorities in a series of human rights violations, including illegal arrest, torture, and failure to provide medical treatment. Now they have added new violations to the list; exposing the legal nihilism and lack of rule of law in the country.
In the same trial, Browder was also found guilty of tax fraud; convicted in absentia, and sentenced to nine years imprisonment. – Today’s guilty verdicts of Magnitsky and Browder underline the importance of European governments and institutions stepping up their pressure on Russian authorities, Ekeløve-Slydal underlined. It is time for the EU and democratic governments, including Norway, to follow up on calls from the EU, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assemblies as well as by several national Parliaments to adopt Magnitsky type sanctions in Europe.
Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 after presenting well-documented accusations of tax fraud of 230 million US Dollars by Russian officials, but was later himself accused of the crime. His death in custody on 16 November 2009 led to a major diplomatic dispute between Russia and the United States. An investigation by Russia's presidential council on human rights concluded that he had been beaten and denied medical treatment.
Browder has since led a forceful international campaign,Justice for Sergei Magnitsky, which led to the US Congress passing the Magnitsky Act in December 2012, blacklisting Russian officials accused of human rights violations, including those linked to the case. Those on the list are denied visa and their assets in the US are frozen.
In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law barring Americans from adopting Russian orphans. The Russian foreign ministry also drew up its own blacklist of US officials who are alleged to have committed human rights violations.
It is believed to be the first time in Soviet or Russian history that a defendant was tried posthumously. – Instead of bringing those behind the enormous tax fraud, the illegal arrest and the death of Magnitsky to justice, Russian authorities fabricated accusations against Magnitsky and Browder that were clearly unfounded, said Ekeløve-Slydal. In that way they try to cover-up the real crimes and shield those responsible for them.
It has happened in Russia and elsewhere that cases of dead persons were re-examined, but only in order to rehabilitate the persons, concluded Ekeløve-Slydal. To try and convict a dead person is unprecedented in modern times, and runs against basic principles of Russian and international law.
For further comments, contact Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, mobile: +47 95210307