The United States has made the right decision to reinstate William Browder’s visa waiver. The onus now falls on Interpol to remove him from its “wanted” list.
Browder, a British citizen, is the CEO of hedge-fund Hermitage Capital. He and his firm had been clients of Russian attorney Sergei Magnitsky, who was imprisoned, tortured, and killed after exposing corruption in the Kremlin.
Since Magnitsky’s death, Browder has become an advocate of human rights in Russia. He was a driving force behind the passage of the Magnitsky Act in Congress and other Magnitsky Acts worldwide. These laws freeze the assets of and deny entry to Russian officials who were complicit in Magnitsky’s death and other human-rights abuses. Britain, Estonia, and Canada have passed Magnitsky Acts of their own, and Browder has been a major reason why.
In response to his activism, the Putin regime has tried to label Browder a criminal by lying his crimes into existence. In 2013, it sentenced Browder to nine years’ imprisonment in absentia for financial and political crimes he did not commit. Now, the regime outlandishly says that Browder and an agent of MI6 murdered Magnitsky back in 2009 — though Browder was living in London when Magnitsky died. It is the Putin regime itself that is responsible for Magnitsky’s death, and the only thing Browder is guilty of is standing against Putin’s criminality.
After Canada passed its Magnitsky Act last week, Putin lashed out. On Thursday, he denounced Browder personally and then added Browder to the Interpol watch list unilaterally, using what’s called a “diffusion notice.” Then, Browder was informed that his visa-waiver status had been revoked and was prevented from traveling to the U.S.
U.S. officials have suggested the decision was an automatic response to the Interpol notice. Thankfully, the revocation was quickly reversed, though DHS and Browder have given conflicting accounts of the timeline. In any case, Browder is again free to visit the United States.
Putin has tried to have Browder placed on the Interpol list five times, and the allegations are as spurious now as they have always been. He was most recently added to the list in July, after Browder testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Interpol removed him a month later.)
In his testimony, Browder linked Putin to the crime over which Sergei Magnitsky was killed, and chronicled the threats he has received from the Russian government. This human-rights advocate is not a criminal, and Interpol should remove Browder from its watch list with haste.