McGovern Calls on Trump to Make Human Rights and Strong Leadership on Russia a Top Priority

james mcgovern

McGovern Calls on Trump to Make Human Rights and

Strong Leadership on Russia a Top Priority

McGovern at Tufts University Addresses U.S.-Russia Relations, Need for Strong American Leadership on Human Rights Around the World 

MEDFORD, MA – Tonight, U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) called on President-Elect Donald Trump to make human rights a top priority in his administration. At a discussion at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University with William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, McGovern spoke about the future of U.S.-Russia relations seen through the lens of human rights abuses by the Russian government and its impact on business and trade.

 

“During the campaign, two words I never heard Donald Trump utter were ‘human rights.’ Quite frankly, that worries me,” Congressman McGovern said. “I hope, as our next president, that human rights in Russia and around the world will become a major part of our foreign policy.

 

Congressman McGovern has been a leading voice in the call for U.S. leadership and action to strengthen human rights across the world, including in Russia. Congressman McGovern is one of the authors of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, legislation passed by both the U.S. House and Senate in 2012 to establish a critical precedent that human rights must be an essential component of trade legislation.

 

The Magnitsky Bill was named after Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and auditor who worked for Hermitage Capital Management. Magnitsky’s arrest and subsequent death while in Russian custody triggered both official and unofficial inquiries into allegations of fraud, theft, and human rights violations. Mr. Browder, an international human rights crusader, wrote the New York Times bestseller Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice based on these experiences.

 

“The United States is not above criticism when it comes to human rights. But we remain the best hope for so many around the world who are oppressed. We must not turn our backs on bad behavior – either from our adversaries or our allies,” Congressman McGovern added.

“The Magnitsky bill is not anti-Russian people – it’s anti-Russian corruption, murder and oppression.We should continue to have a constructive relationship with the Russian government. But we should not turn a blind eye; we should not be indifferent; and we should not rationalize or explain away the type of behavior that resulted in the death of Sergei.

 

“Going forward, will the fact that there has been strong Republican support for the use of sanctions matter? Like most sanctions legislation, the Magnitsky law is discretionary; it authorizes but does not require the president to impose sanctions on those whose names the Congress forwards. The decisions the new president takes on Magnitsky sanctions will send a clear message as to the importance he places on human rights and the fight against corruption in Russia and globally.”

 

Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Statement is Below:

 

“Good evening. It is a great pleasure to be here tonight, and to be sharing the stage once again with my good friend Bill Browder, who has worked tirelessly to bring corrupt officials and human rights violators to justice in Russia and around the world.

“I especially want to thank Tufts University and the Fletcher School for hosting this important event. In two short months a new president will be sworn in whose foreign policy positions, including those on Russia, are simply unclear. So it is a good time to be discussing the U.S. relationship with countries like Russia, where concerns about human rights and corruption are often at the forefront.

“I’d like to take a few minutes to remind you of the origins of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 that is in effect for Russia, and its sister legislation, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, that I cosponsored in January 2015 and is currently being considered in the Congress.

“As you will hear today, this all started when Bill Browder began to expose corruption in the Russian economy, which led to him being declared a threat to Russia’s national security, and got his company raided and fraudulently transferred to state control. Bill hired a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, to investigate what was going on. Sergei’s investigation uncovered a $230 million dollar fraud committed by Russian government officials – but it was Sergei, not the corrupt officials, who was arrested. He was held for 358 days, tortured, and eventually beaten to death in 2009. He was 37 years old.

“This terrible experience led Bill to start a global campaign to expose endemic corruption and human rights abuses in Russia. He brought this cause to the U.S. Congress, and that led to the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act which Sen. Ben Cardin and I introduced in September 2010. There wasn’t enough time to move the bill in the 111th Congress, so we reintroduced in the 112th, and the Magnitsky Act was passed in December 2012.

“The Act directs the President to identify individuals responsible for the detention, abuse or death of Sergei, or of other Russians seeking to expose illegal activity by Russian officials, or otherwise defend human rights. The people on the list then become ineligible for U.S. visas, any current visas are revoked, their U.S. assets are frozen and any transactions involving U.S. property are prohibited. As of today, 39 people have been sanctioned under this law, including many of those directly involved in Sergei’s death.

Of course, corruption and human rights violations do not only occur in Russia. People continually bring new cases of rights abuses or corrupt practices to my attention, from places all over the world – Syria, Tibet, Burma, Turkey, Sudan, Bahrain, Guatemala, to name just a few. This is why, when we started working on the Sergei Magnitsky Act, we wanted it to have global reach.

“But because that didn’t happen in 2012, I introduced the Global Magnitsky bill during the current Congress, together with my colleague Rep. Chris Smith. I remain hopeful that Global Magnitsky will be passed yet this year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. If so, we will have achieved an important victory.

“It’s important to recognize that the Magnitsky legislation is not a substitute for strengthening rule of law in the countries where human rights abuses and corruption are occurring. We should all work for the day when judicial systems at the national level are strong enough and independent enough to investigate and punish the people who use their positions of power to repress their citizens’ most basic rights, or to enrich themselves at public expense. What Magnitsky legislation allows us to do is prevent people who are responsible for abuses from benefitting by coming to our country and doing business here.

“This approach, this way of contributing to ensure some kind of accountability for terrible abuses, has strong bipartisan support. When I first introduced the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act in the House in September 2010, I only had three co-sponsors.  When I reintroduced the bill in April 2012, it garnered 80 cosponsors, showing growing bipartisan support. In December 2012, the bill passed the House by a vote of 363-45. The Global Magnitsky bill has also had strong support on both sides of the aisle.

“One big question going forward is whether the new Administration will continue to use the Magnitsky and other sanctions authorities to communicate to foreign governments that the United States will oppose human rights abuses and corruption.

“Let me be clear that in my view, many more people in Russia could have and should have been sanctioned by President Obama under Magnitsky. Doing so would have been consistent with the focus in the U.S. National Security Strategy on building rule of law, combatting corruption and protecting and strengthening human rights. But at least the current Administration has implemented some sanctions.

“Going forward, will the fact that there has been strong Republican support for the use of sanctions matter? Like most sanctions legislation, the Magnitsky law is discretionary; it authorizes but does not require the president to impose sanctions on those whose names the Congress forwards. The decisions the new president takes on Magnitsky sanctions will send a clear message as to the importance he places on human rights and the fight against corruption in Russia and globally.

“I have always believed in engaging other governments, even those with which we have strong disagreements. But engagement without attention to accountability feeds the kinds of internal conditions in countries that can lead to marginalization, radicalization, and internal uprisings whose consequences spill over borders. Sanctions take time to be effective, and by themselves may not be sufficient to change behavior. But it would be irresponsible for the United States not to use all the tools it has to foster the good behavior of states internally and internationally.

“The story of Sergei Magnitsky is a tragedy. It is an outrage. The Russian government had hoped we would all just forget and move on. We didn’t – and as someone who cares deeply about human rights, I’m glad we didn’t. The Magnitsky law is not perfect, but it sent a clear message that there would be a consequence for those who are corrupt and commit human rights violations.

“The United States is not above criticism when it comes to human rights. But we remain the best hope for so many around the world who are oppressed. We must not turn our backs on bad behavior – either from our adversaries or our allies.

“The Magnitsky bill is not anti-Russian people – it’s anti-Russian corruption, murder and oppression.We should continue to have a constructive relationship with the Russian government. But we should not turn a blind eye; we should not be indifferent; and we should not rationalize or explain away the type of behavior that resulted in the death of Sergei.

“During the campaign, two words I never heard Donald Trump utter were “human rights.” Quite frankly, that worries me. I hope, as our next president, that human rights in Russia and around the world will become a major part of our foreign policy.

About Jennifer Doyle

Comments

  1. Adjutant Joseph McMahon says:

    What a Joke! As the Democratic Party supports and abets Iran, Saudi Arabia and other cruel Dictatorial countries that encourage slavery and demean women as property, they want to point the finger at Russia.

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