Magnitsky List: Quibbles & Threats

The Magnitsky List is causing consternation in Russia, predominantly because it is seen as an affront to the independence and sovereignty of a Kremlin that does not like to be told what to do.  But the fine print of the bill is also cause for concern, says Carl Schreck for RIA Novosti, because it does not clarify exactly how it will choose the officials it targets.  It simply cites a list that should be compiled using ‘credible information’ from NGOs and foreign governments.  Not only does this give ‘an incredibly broad mandate to determine who should be put on this list,’ but, Schreck points out, it sets up potentially confrontational situations between Russian NGOs and their government.

This woolliness may increase when the legislation goes through the Senate, after which point it could extend the authority of the list to the U.S. State and Treasury Departments, and could ‘extend to alleged human rights abuses all over the world.’  Schreck also says it is unlikely that any List would impact those who inspired it – the officials linked with the death of Sergei Magnitsky.

[William] Pomeranz, the international law expert, said the bill—if passed by the Senate and, as expected, signed into law by US President Barack Obama—would likely do little to impact the officials Browder has accused in Magnitsky’s death.

It’s unlikely these individuals are planning to visit America anytime soon—or park their money here, he said.

Yulia Latynina, in criticising Moscow’s reaction to the initial passing of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, makes a similar point, not about the efficacy of the bill, but of the emptiness of the Kremlin’s rhetoric about promising to make ‘an adequate response’:

At first glance, it would seem that the “tough response” to the Magnitsky bill the Foreign Ministry is threatening is pointless. What reaction could follow if the U.S. freezes assets that Russian officials have stolen from the state budget and deposited in overseas banks? Will Moscow freeze money that U.S. politicians have embezzled from their country and deposited in Russian banks?