Bill S-226, which has now passed both the Senate and House of Commons, was inspired by the case of Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-corruption lawyer who died in 2009 after a year in a Russian jail. Although the bill doesn’t actually name Russia except in its preamble, it’s thought to directly target Russian officials – not least by the Russians themselves.
But the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act “is not directed against Russia. It’s not directed against any country or government,” said former Liberal MP and human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler (right). “It’s directed against the human rights violators who operate within a culture of corruption and criminality and impunity. This is intended, effectively, to combat that impunity, hold them accountable, ensure that Canada cannot become a place where they can travel to, launder their proceeds, send their kids to school, etcetera.”
The passage of the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act is an important step in the fight against impunity around the world,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), co-author, with U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which became U.S. law in December 2016. “When our nations unite behind one cause, it is a powerful and consequential message that we will uphold our shared values and will not tolerate human rights violations, corruption, or any action that undermines the rule of law.”
French authorities have launched an investigation against Danske Bank which is suspected of having taken part in the laundering of some of the US$ 230 million Russian treasury scam once uncovered by Magnitsky (left), the Financial Times reported on Friday (HT: The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project – OCCRP).
The U.S. government should follow the recent recommendation of a group of non-governmental organizations in applying the Global Magnitsky Act to a prominent Azerbaijani official – Mirgafar Seyidov, head of the Baku City Police – for the alleged torture of two activists, say Florida International University’s David Kramer, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and Richard Kauzlarich, a Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University. Other Azerbaijani officials, from police to judges, to political leaders, and even President Aliyev himself, should be considered by the State and Treasury Departments for inclusion on the Magnitsky list, they write for The American Interest.
Canada’s Magnitsky Law will dissuade foreign nationals from engaging in activity that may land them on the list if they have any ties to Canada, notes analyst Noah Arshinoff. Any human rights abuses against a Canadian could get their assets seized in Canada. The new law also complements Canada’s other main pieces of anti-corruption legislation, namely the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.
Human rights and democracy advocates have described Global Magnitsky legislation as a potentially revolutionary tool, as it confers “the ability to sanction the world’s worst human rights violators and corrupt actors wherever they may be, putting them on notice that accountability knows no borders.”
“The passage of this law also commemorates the activists, including Sergei Magnitsky, who gave their lives to fight for accountability and stand for principle,” said Cardin. “I applaud my Canadian counterparts for this effort and look forward to closer cooperation in the fight against corrupt leaders and human rights abusers.”