By Andrei Skvarsky.
The European Parliament on Tuesday passed a non-binding resolution calling for tough European Union-wide sanctions against Russian officials blamed for the allegedly unlawful arrest of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for British investment fund Hermitage Capital, and his death in custody in 2009.
The resolution recommends that the EU Council, effectively the Union’s top legislative body, “implement an EU-wide visa ban” on officials “responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, for the subsequent judicial cover-up and for the ongoing and sustained harassment of his mother and widow”, and “freeze any financial assets they or their immediate family may hold inside the European Union”.
The document also suggests that the Council “call on Russia to conduct a credible and independent investigation encompassing all aspects of this tragic case”.
The resolution followed a report by Estonian politician Kristiina Ojuland, the EU rapporteur on the Magnitsky case.
“Although former president Dmitry Medvedev promised to cast light to this case, we still have not seen justice served. Visa bans and asset freezes are concrete reactions,” a Hermitage statement quoted Ojuland as saying. “We cannot let EU banks accept the fortunes of corrupt individuals stealing from the Russian people.”
European Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, speaking on behalf of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, was quoted by Hermitage as saying: “The … reason why we continue to be active in the Magnitsky case is that we believe that Russia itself should have a great interest in solving it.”
Magnitsky was arrested on a tax evasion charge after accusing senior officials of stealing $230m from the Russian state through tax rebate schemes. A gravely sick man, he died in a remand prison in Moscow in November 2009 after being denied essential medical assistance. Hermitage Capital and rights activists claim he was tortured while in jail.