December 18, 2012 What the Magnitsky Act Means If implemented properly, it could mean the restoration of a normative dimension to Western policy on Russia. David J. Kramer and Lilia Shevtsova
Sergei Magnitsky was a 37-year-old lawyer who was beaten, deprived of vital medical attention, and left to die in a Russian prison nearly a year after uncovering a massive fraud allegedly committed by Russian officials to the tune of $230 million. The very people whom Magnitsky implicated in the fraud arrested him in 2008; a year after his murder, several of these officials were promoted and awarded, adding insult to the fatal injury inflicted on Magnitsky.
Magnitsky's client, Hermitage Capital head Bill Browder, launched a full-court press to seek justice for his lawyer in the West in the absence of any possibility for justice inside Russia. Browder recounted Magnitsky's riveting story to members of the U.S. Congress and anyone else who would listen. Fortunately, two Congressmen, Senator Ben Cardin (D–MD) and Representative Jim McGovern (D–MA), did listen, and they followed up by leading the campaign to adopt the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which was approved by the House in a 365–43 vote November 16, and by the Senate with an equally bipartisan landslide (92-4) on December 6. The Act will deny visas to and freeze the assets of those in the Russian ruling elite implicated in Magnitsky's murder and other human rights violations and corruption.