Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Magnitsky case is not dead

Sergei Magnitsky himself is. He died in prison after extreme maltreatment more than two years ago. But, it seems that he is about to be prosecuted posthumously together with his employers, Hermitage Capital, for tax evasion, that useful catch-all.

It used to be said that in the Soviet Union you were not only entitled to a trial and a sentence but also to a posthumous rehabilitation. Presumably, that remains true though, officially, Russia does not carry out executions. On the other hand, you can now be entitled to a posthumous trial since the authorities did not quite get round to charging Magnitsky with anything in the year that he spent in prison.
The death of Mr. Magnitsky, a lawyer, in November 2009 drew international criticism over Russia’s human rights record, especially after accusations arose that he had been denied proper medical care. The State Department has barred officials linked to Mr. Magnitsky’s prosecutions from entering the United States. Parliaments in nine European countries are considering similar bans. 
 Police officials reopened the case against Mr. Magnitsky last summer, saying it would provide a chance for relatives and supporters to clear his name. 
 Relatives, though, said they had not asked for that, and executives at Hermitage said the motive was something else entirely: to vindicate the officials Mr. Magnitsky had accused of corruption.
I shall write more about this case because there is a good deal to say but, for the moment, let me just add that, despite the fact that Mr Magnitsky was murdered because he loyally tried to do his work for a British firm, the UK is not one of the countries that has barred the officials in question or their families.

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