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Investigating the Dead

The Wall Street Journal tees one up over Russia’s decision to open a posthumous criminal investigation into Sergei Magnitsky, in lieu of charging any of the prison officials, police, or Interior Ministry officials responsible for his death.  It’s typically aggressive (“Czar Putin”), but honestly, how do you think we should react to such ugliness?

The Vladimir Putin era sometimes calls to mind Nicolai Gogol, a master of absurdist and biting social critiques of Czarist Russia. In the latest chapter, the prosecutor’s office in Moscow recently announced the reopening of a tax evasion case against Sergei Magnitsky, who has been dead for two years. A week earlier the Constitutional Court had declared that death was no impediment to the pursuit of justice, and the prosecutor even claimed that this investigation was for Magnitsky’s own good—to clear his name. The dead man’s family expressed “great wariness” on hearing the news.  (…)

Mr. Medvedev says he wants to improve Russia’s rights record, but his efforts haven’t gotten far. That may have something to do with the reality that Mr. Putin—previously president and now prime minister—calls the shots in Russia. Another arm of the state that reports to Czar Putin, the ministry of interior, rebuffed the Medvedev council in a letter released last week, saying it saw “no reasons” to investigate, much less punish, police officials in connection with the Magnitsky case. So now it looks like the interrogators won’t be held to account for his death.