Should contribute to European Magnitsky legislation | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Should contribute to European Magnitsky legislation

Should contribute to European Magnitsky legislation

-Norwegian authorities should contribute to Europe enacting Magnitsky type legislation, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. – There is need for new ways of addressing the very serious human rights violations that take place in Russia from the part of European governments and institutions. Magnitsky legislation may prove to be an efficient supplement to regional and international human rights mechanisms. Norway should signal support of the EU enacting Magnitsky type legislation.

Recently four MPs of Norway’s main opposition parties challenged Norway’s Foreign Minister, Espen Barth Eide, to “consider if also Norway could freeze assets and deny entry to Norway of those who participated in the imprisonment, torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky. Assets freeze and visa ban should take place pending a final judgment after a trial conducted in accordance with recognized fair trial principles.”

The MPs also added that “for us it is important that the legal rights of the accused are safeguarded. It must be made for an appeal opportunity and a chance to provide information that sheds light on the case from the point of view of the accused.

The letter from MPs Karin Woldseth (the Progress Party), Peter S. Gitmark (the Conservative Party), Hans Olav Syvertsen (Christian Democrats), and Trine Skei Grande (Leader of the Liberal Party) in effect asks for important elements of what could be called Magnitsky type legislation to be put in place in Norway. In particular, the letter, which is dated 17 April 2013, asks for denial of visa and assets freeze of persons that committed gross violation of human rights against Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower that died in prison 16 November 2009 because of mistreatment by Russian authorities. He had disclosed Russia’s biggest tax fraud ever, amounting to 230 million US Dollar.

-It is important that the MPs underline the need for providing appeal opportunity, as well as underlining the temporary character of the listing. A person could be erased from the list if genuine investigation and prosecution of the alleged crimes is conducted or if the person is able to provide information that shows his or her innocence, said Ekeløve-Slydal. – We would however argue that the list should include not only those who committed human rights violations against Magnitsky. Any person, irrespective of nationality, who committed gross violations like torture or extrajudicial killings against whistleblowers or human rights defenders, should be targeted.

Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide responded to the MPs letter on 7 May by stating his agreement on the importance of the Magnitsky case. According to the Minister, the case is emblematic in expressing the “negative development we now witness with increased pressure on human rights, civil society and political opposition in Russia”.

The Minister however underlines that Norway could not enact Magnitsky type legislation on its own. The main principle of Norway’s police on sanctions is to abide by binding resolutions of the UN Security Council, the Minister underlines.

-Bold initiatives from MPs in national parliaments are very important; strengthening the effect of the support for Magnitsky legislation already expressed by the European Parliament and by the parliamentary assemblies of the OSCE and the Council of Europe, Ekeløve-Slydal concluded. Even though Norway would not enact such legislation on its own, it could signal in talks with EU representatives that it supports EU sanctions and would follow-up. European sanctions would contribute to restoring faith in Europe as a driving force for human rights and rule of law; benefitting both Russia, Europe and the global human rights.”

Read the Norwegian Parliamentarians' letter here (in Norwegian).

Read the response letter by Norway’s Foreign Minister here (in Norwegian).

Find the Justice for Sergey Magnitsky campaign  here.