Earlier this month, I wrote about the curious case of the Global Magnitsky Act, which, shortly after being scheduled for markup in the House Foreign Affairs Committee in April, disappeared from the committee’s agenda. The original Magnitsky Act, which was signed into law in 2012 and permits sanctions on Russian individuals involved in human-rights violations, is for obvious reasons vigorously opposed by the Kremlin, and they are not keen to see the sanctions approach entrenched in the Global Magnitsky Act, which would expand the original bill to include human-rights abusers worldwide.
In D.C., California congressman Dana Rohrabacher seems to be toeing Moscow’s line. Rohrabacher, a Republican, helped to spike the bill from HFAC’s calendar, citing “new information” about Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian whistleblower who was beaten to death in a Russian prison in 2009, and for whom the Magnitsky Acts are named. As I reported in my original piece, Rohrabacher received a dossier of information about the Magnitsky case while he was visiting Russia in early April.
Interestingly, not long after our piece appeared here at National Review, the Global Magnitsky Act returned to the markup calendar. It’s scheduled for today, May 18.
Now, NRO has learned that Rohrabacher has been petitioning his fellow Foreign Affairs Committee members to strike “Magnitsky” from the name of the bill. A letter sent by Rohrabacher to his colleagues asks them to support an amendment changing the name of the bill (to “Global Human Rights Accountability Act”) on the grounds that there remain “several questions about the case surrounding investment banker Bill Browder and his former employee, Sergei Magnitsky,” and that “by moving this legislation under the Magnitsky banner, we are unnecessarily focusing this bill on one country in particular.” Rohrabacher directs his colleagues to two news stories — a six-month-old article from The New Republic, and a year-old article from the Wall Street Journal.
Rohrabacher’s colleagues should not be cowed. His pro-Putin sympathies are well known, and if Rohrabacher has conclusive evidence that Sergei Magnitsky’s rights, civil or human, were not violated by the Russian government, and that the Magnitsky Acts are based on a fraudulent story, he has yet to provide it.
In the meantime, what is beyond doubt is that the Kremlin is engaged in an aggressive propaganda campaign to undermine the legacy of Sergei Magnitsky. Removing his name from the bill would be a small but significant victory for Moscow.