Thanks to the impetus of Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and John McCain, the US has already established a visa blacklist on 6o Russian officials who were believed to be implicated in the death in custody of Hermitage Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in November 2009. The Magnitsky case has received widespread international attention, thanks in large part to the indefatigable efforts of Hermitage founder Bill Browder and Magntistky’s mother. The latter recently demanded that a murder investigation be initiated on the basis that a newly unearthed doctor’s report suggested the 39-year old lawyer was tortured in his last hours. Now it seems, the EU might follow the US’ example by actively contemplating the possibility of restricting the travel of those same blacklisted names in the Schengen zone. From EU Observer:
Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal has promised to “raise the possibility” of EU sanctions against Russian officials suspected of murdering lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Rosenthal in a formal letter to parliament dated 12 September said: “The investigation into the Magnitsky case is ongoing and Russian judicial procedure must be followed. I want to wait for the outcome of the procedure. But if there is good reason in light of the outcome, then I intend to raise the possibility of further EU-level steps.”The letter comes in response to a Dutch parliament resolution in July calling for The Hague to penalise the officials.
Asked by EUobserver what the minister means by “EU-level steps,” his spokesman Job Frieszo on 23 September said in a written statement: “The Dutch government has concerns about Magnitsky’s death. The investigation by the Russian criminal justice authorities must be continued and the perpetrators brought to justice. The Russian General Investigative Office of the Investigative Committee has extended the term of the criminal investigation into Magnitsky’s death until 24 November 2011.”
Barring a drastic change in Russia’s approach, Rosenthal will have two options come the November deadline.
He can propose in Brussels that fellow member states impose an EU visa ban and asset freeze on the group. But this would amount to a fob-off to Dutch MPs because, in the words of one senior EU diplomat, he “would never get the consensus” he needs to trigger an EU ban.
Or he can unilaterally blacklist the group in Schengen, the passport-free zone covering most EU countries plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Under Schengen rules if one member country blacklists a name, all 25 are obliged to keep them out.
The Dutch MP who drafted the Magnitsky resolution, Coskun Coruz, from the centre-right junior coalition party, the CDA, told this website he will hold Rosenthal to account: “It is up to them to decide how to translate our political message into concrete action. But if nothing happens, I will take steps in the Dutch parliament to say this is not right.”