Canadian MP, and former Justice Minister, Irwin Cotler introduced the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (C-689), which would allow for the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes against human rights violators. Cotler, an internationally recognized veteran human rights crusader, has represented Russian human rights activists, Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky and Nelson Mandela and others.
In March, the House of Commons unanimously endorsed a motion by Cotler calling for such sanctions, and a similar motion introduced by Sen. Raynell Andreychuk passed the Senate in May.
Bill Browder, who has championed similar legislation in the United States and Europe, said in March that he was confident after meetings with Canadian government officials in Ottawa, that the Canadian government was on the verge of adopting Magnitsky legislation to help protect Russian human rights and anti-corruption activists. However, the Canadian government has not yet acted to adopt the groundbreaking human rights legislation.
“I was very encouraged when members of all parties came together earlier this spring to support these critical measures,” said veteran human rights crusader and soon-to-retire Montreal MP, Cotler. “But it is deeply disappointing that the government still hasn’t moved forward with legislation.”
The legislation is named in honour of Russian whistle-blowing, anti-corrution lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who discovered a large-scale tax fraud committed by Russian officials before being detained, tortured, and killed in prison in 2009. He was posthumously convicted, in a Kafkaesque cover-up, of the very corruption he had exposed.
Continued Cotler: “In Ottawa in 2012, I stood with Boris Nemtsov, the leader of Russia’s democratic opposition, to call for Magnitsky legislation; Boris was murdered in February. Later in that same year, I stood in Ottawa with Sergei Magnitsky’s last employer, Bill Browder, and with another Russian opposition leader, Vladimir Kara Murza, to make the same appeal; Bill has been repeatedly threatened, and Vladimir is recovering from an apparent poisoning. What else has to happen before Canada and other members of the international community take action commensurate with the seriousness of the situation?”
Cotler himself was suspected of being poisoned during a 2006 trip to Russia.
Resolutions calling for Magnitsky sanctions have been passed by the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and legislatures in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy and Canada.The United States passed Magnitsky legislation in 2012.
When the Canadian motion passed the House, MPs and Senators from all parties – including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Anderson – held a joint press conference to mark the occasion.
“There is still time for the government to either take over my bill or pass similar legislation of its own,” urged Cotler, “both out of respect for the will of Parliament, and out of solidarity with the victims of human rights violations – and those who struggle valiantly on their behalf – in Russia and around the world.”