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The McCain Legacy and the Magnitsky Act
15th November 2018 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
The United States’ adoption of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 marked a watershed in America’s, and the West’s, relations with Russia. The Act allowed the US to freeze the assets and withhold the visas of people who are violating human rights globally. Similar legislation has since been adopted in the UK, Canada, and the Baltic states.
The US Magnitsky Act would not have happened without John McCain. He was the first Senator to support Bill Browder’s efforts to hold the killers of Magnitsky to account. And he, along with Benjamin Cardin, introduced the legislation. McCain also later supported the introduction of Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, which broadens the scope of the legislation so that it applies globally.
By kind invitation of Ian Austin MP, the Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you for a discussion about John McCain’s legacy and the Magnitsky Act.
Bill Browder was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005, when he was denied entry to the country and declared “a threat to national security” for exposing corruption in Russian state-owned companies. In 2008, Mr. Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, uncovered a massive fraud committed by Russian government officials that involved the theft of US $230 million of state taxes. Sergei testified against state officials involved in this fraud and was subsequently arrested, imprisoned without trial and systematically tortured. He spent a year in prison under horrific detention conditions, was repeatedly denied medical treatment, and died in prison on November 16, 2009, leaving behind a wife and two children. Since then, Mr. Browder has sought justice outside of Russia and started a global campaign for governments around the world to impose targeted visa bans and asset freezes on human rights abusers and highly corrupt officials.
Meghan McCain is the daughter of the late Senator John McCain and is co-host of ABC’s Emmy Award-winning daytime talk show, “The View”. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, McCain graduated from Columbia University and completed internships at Newsweek and “Saturday Night Live” before joining her father’s 2008 presidential campaign. She soon joined The Daily Beast as a columnist and MSNBC as a contributor. A New York Times bestselling author, McCain has written and published three books, including “Dirty Sexy Politics: A True Story” which was inspired by her time on the campaign trail during her father’s presidential run.
Vladimir Kara-Murza is vice chairman of the Open Russia movement and chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom. Kara-Murza is a former deputy leader of the People’s Freedom Party and was a candidate for the Russian State Duma. He has testified before parliaments in Europe and North America and played a key role in the passage of Magnitsky Laws that imposed targeted sanctions on Russian human rights violators in the U.S., Canada, and several EU countries. Kara-Murza is a contributing writer to the Washington Post and has previously worked as a journalist for Russian broadcast and print media, including RTVi, Ekho Moskvy, Kommersant, and The New Times. Kara-Murza is a recipient of the Magnitsky Human Rights Award, the Sakharov Prize for Journalism as an Act of Conscience, the Geneva Summit Courage Award, the Train Foundation’s Civil Courage Prize, and the Oxi Courage Award.
Kyle Parker is Chief of Staff of the U.S. Helsinki Commission. Prior to his appointment as Chief of Staff to the Commission, Kyle served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and, from 2006 to 2014, as Policy Advisor for Eurasia at the Commission. Before entering government, Kyle spent eight years at the American Foreign Policy Council. Kyle’s work on the Magnitsky Act is featured in a New York Times bestseller, and his expertise on Russia has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, NPR, and foreign media outlets. Kyle is a graduate of the University of Maine and speaks fluent Russian.
The Henry Jackson Society was honoured to host Bill Browder, Meghan McCain, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Kyle Parker in the Houses of Parliament by kind invitation of Ian Austin MP. On the occasion of the 9th anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s death at the hand of corrupt Russian government officials, the panel discussed the laws to punish those involved the murder and the involvement of the late Senator John McCain in realising them.
Mr Browder started the discussion by recalling how he sought justice for Sergei Magnisky’s death. After this campaign had no success in Russian courts, he looked to ways to punish the perpetrators by freezing their assets stored in Western countries and introducing travel bans. He then took this matter to Senators McCain and Cardin, who worked together in drafting the Magnitsky Act. Although the act passed with an overwhelming majority in the US House of Representatives, Mr Browder recalls opposition to legislation within the West that wanted to remove Magnitsky’s name from the legislation. The act was finally passed in 2012 and Mr Browder now campaigns in European countries for the adoption of similar rules.
Ms McCain recounted her father’s commitment to oppose Putin’s dictatorship and how he frequently talked about Sergei Magnitsky and Boris Nemtsov. She warned against Putin’s attempts to subvert Western democratic states and vows to continue her father’s fight for freedom and democracy. Mr Kara-Murza then expressed his gratitude to the Members of Parliament that helped a Magnitsky Act pass in the United Kingdom. He recalled that at the beginning of the campaign, they were told that there was little hope for success in passing such a legislation, but he also recounted the support he received from Senator McCain in this campaign. Mr Kara-Murza will continue fight to pass Magnitsky legislations not only in Europe, but also in Asian democracies.
Mr Parker then stressed that the Magnitsky Act is not an anti-Russia legislation, as unlike other laws it targets individuals rather than the Russian Federation as a whole. According to Mr Parker, the Magnitsky Act is born out of a respect for the Russian people and their struggle for freedom and democracy. He also recalled the abuse oppositionist Boris Nemtsov suffered prior to his assassination. Mr Parker also pointed to the successful passing of a global Magnitsky authority which is applicable all over the world and the US administration has worked on implementing.
After taking questions from the audience, the panellists reaffirmed their commitment to seek justice for Sergei Magnitsky. The Henry Jackson Society would like to thank all of the panellists for sharing their experiences with the public.