WASHINGTON — The author of sanctions against Russians over human rights violations said Thursday there would be no need for punishment if Russia focused on holding people accountable for the death of Sergei Magnitsky.
"If Russia would stop wasting time prosecuting a dead person for doing what is right and instead hold those who are responsible accountable there would be no need for a list in the United States or any other country," Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said at a Capitol Hill news conference.
Cardin, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was joined by Magnitsky's mother and wife, both named Natalya, and his young son Nikita. Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates. He died in prison the next year, allegedly after being beaten and denied medical treatment.
Cardin and other lawmakers pushed the law enacted last year that mandates the sanctions list. Last week, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against 18 Russians as a result of the law.
The list included Artem Kuznetsov and Pavel Karpov, two Russian Interior Ministry officers who put Magnitsky behind bars after he accused them of stealing $230 million from the state. Two tax officials the lawyer accused of approving the fraudulent tax refunds, and several other Interior Ministry officials accused of persecuting Magnitsky, were also on the list. Absent were senior officials from President Vladimir Putin's entourage whom some human rights advocates had hoped to see sanctioned.
"What was done in Russia cannot go unpunished," Cardin said.
The law, which was linked to legislation normalizing trade relations between the United States and Russia, angered Moscow, which accused Congress of interfering with its internal affairs. Within days, Russia announced that it was banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
"Sergei Magnitsky is an inspiration to human rights activists around the world. He offers a legacy of courage," Cardin said.
Magnitsky's mother, speaking through a translator, thanked lawmakers for ensuring the law was passed.