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Motion to Take Note of the Case of Sergei Magnitsky

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk, pursuant to notice of March 24, 2015, moved:

          That the Senate take note of the following facts:

          (a) Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow lawyer who uncovered the largest tax fraud in Russian

          history, was detained without trial, tortured and consequently died in a Moscow prison on

          November 16, 2009;

          (b) No thorough, independent and objective investigation has been conducted by Russian

          authorities into the detention, torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, nor have the individuals

          responsible been brought to justice; and

          (c) The unprecedented posthumous trial and conviction of Sergei Magnitsky in Russia for the

          very fraud he uncovered constitute a violation of the principles of fundamental justice and the

          rule of law; and

          That the Snate call upon the government to:

          (a) Condemn any foreign nationals who were responsible for the detention, torture or death of

          Sergei Magnitsky, or who have been involved in covering up the crimes he exposed;

          (b) Explore and encourage sanctions against any foreign nationals who were responsible for

          the detention, torture or death of Sergei Magnitsky, or who have been involved in covering up

          the crimes he exposed; and

          (c) Explore sanctions as appropriate against any foreign nationals responsible for violations of

          internationally recognized human rights in a foreign country, when authorities in that country

          are unable or unwilling to conduct a thorough, independent and objective investigation of the

          violations.

 

She said: Honourable senators, this motion is directed at the perpetrators of human rights abuses

wherever they occur, but it is centred on the notorious death of Mr. Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian

prison in November 2009.

 

Sergei Magnitsky grew up in Southern Russia. Gifted in physics and mathematics, he went on to

become a successful lawyer and auditor in a quickly changing Russia.

In 2008, while working for an American firm in Moscow, Mr. Magnitsky uncovered massive

corruption. The case involved the theft of three of his client’s companies and an alleged $230 million

tax fraud. Mr. Magnitsky testified against senior Interior Ministry officials whom he accused of

masterminding and carrying out the theft.

 

A month later, the same officials arrested Magnitsky on allegations of tax fraud. Magnitsky spent

almost a year in prison. He complained of unsanitary, confined conditions, of rats and of ill health.

In July 2009, he was diagnosed with gallbladder stones, pancreatitis and other conditions. Doctors

said he needed an operation. Instead, he was moved to medical isolation.

As his case moved through the courts, prosecutors produced more evidence, and Magnitsky’s

detention was extended.

 

On November 16, 2009, Sergei Magnitsky died in pretrial custody. He was 37 years old. He was

survived by his wife, his mother and his two young sons. Mr. Magnitsky’s death was met with

international condemnation. The Kremlin’s own Human Rights Council deemed the case against

Magnitsky illegal for several reasons. One concerned conflict of interest.

 

The case against Magnitsky had been brought by the same officers whom he had implicated in

corruption. The council also highlighted evidence that Magnitsky had been badly beaten before his

death. Russia’s investigative committee, for its part, said:

          . . . the shortcomings in the provision of medical assistance to Mr. Magnitsky have a direct

          cause-and-effect relationship with his death.

 

But President Putin insisted that he had died of a heart attack. Allegations that Magnitsky had

suffered torture were dismissed. The government did not allow an independent autopsy.

Charges against a senior prison official, the only person to be charged in connection with

Magnitsky’s death, were thrown out.

 

In May 2010, Human Rights Watch noted that:

          The Russian government’s response to the death in custody of Sergei Magnitsky was another

          example of how gestures are falling short of real change.

On July 11, 2013, Sergei Magnitsky was tried and convicted posthumously. Many accused the

Kremlin of doubling down on its version of events.

 

Amnesty International called the prosecution ‘‘deeply sinister.’’ It added that the case ‘‘. . . set a

dangerous precedent that could open a whole new chapter in Russia’s worsening human rights

record.’’

The European Union, for its part, said the trial sent a ‘‘. . . disturbing message to those who fight

corruption in Russia.’’

 

Many others also expressed disappointment. The motion before the Senate today builds on the tide

of international condemnation that followed the death in custody, the posthumous conviction and the

lack of justice for Sergei Magnitsky. 

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It is now 4 o’clock. Pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate

on February 6, 2014, I declare the Senate continued until Thursday, March 26, 2015, at 1:30 p.m.

 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

THE SENATE

MOTION TO TAKE NOTE OF THE CASE OF SERGEI MAGNITSKYDEBATE CONTINUED

 

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, yesterday I detailed the life and death in a

Russian prison of Sergei Magnitsky.

 

Sergei Magnitsky was only 37 at the time of his death. He was a son, a husband and the father of

two very young children. Tragically, he was also the victim: of an illegal persecution brought against

him by the same Interior Ministry officials he had exposed for corruption; of a high-level campaign

to cover up the corruption he had exposed; and of the negligence of prison officials to his

deteriorating health. There were also clear signs that Mr. Magnitsky had suffered beatings and

potential torture shortly before his death.

 

These facts have been noted by international human rights groups such as Amnesty International

and Human Rights Watch. They were also noted by Russia’s very own Investigative Committee,

and the Kremlin’s Human Rights Council.

 

On her mission to Russia in 2011, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay,

raised concerns related to the case of Sergei Magnitsky. She named him as one of three ‘‘eminent

human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists [who] have been brutally murdered or died in

custody.’’ She added that ‘‘the investigations and legal processes surrounding their deaths have

been untransparent, inconclusive and shrouded in controversy.’’

But Mr. Putin insisted that Sergei Magnitsky died because of a heart attack.

 

Instead of acting to reverse the miscarriage of justice, the persecution of the young anti-corruption

lawyer was continued. Sergei Magnitsky was tried posthumously. Accused of financial fraud by the

same officials he had implicated in massive corruption, he was convicted more than three years after

his death.

 

Parliaments around the world have condemned these injustices. I note, in particular, two resolutions

passed overwhelmingly in the European Parliament; a motion passed unanimously in the British

House of Commons; the passage of the Magnitsky Act with a 92-to-4 vote in the United States

Senate; a unanimous resolution by the Dutch Parliament; a resolution passed by the Parliamentary

Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; and similar resolutions

passed in Sweden, Italy and Poland.

 

Just yesterday, a motion almost identical to the one before the Senate was introduced in the other

place by the Honourable Irwin Cotler. This motion in the other place was adopted unanimously by all

parties.

 

In this way, parliamentarians in Canada are joining with others around the world demanding justice

for Sergei Magnitsky. That is because, in rules-based democracies, and among human rights

advocates, Sergei Magnitsky has become a household name. His story has become emblematic of

what can happen when state corruption and self-interest are placed above human rights and the rule

of law.

 

The campaign for justice being waged in Magnitsky’s name has become an international rallying cry

for efforts to bring human rights violators to justice, wherever they are.

 

The Senate’s adoption of this motion will join us with fellow parliamentarians in like-minded

countries. It calls upon the Government of Canada to condemn and explore sanctions against those

involved in Sergei Magnitsky’s detention and death, and the cover-up of those crimes.

But it goes further than that. It also calls upon the Government of Canada to explore sanctions as

appropriate against any foreign national responsible for violating international human rights.

Importantly, the motion calls upon the government to take these actions when authorities are

unwilling or unable to conduct thorough, independent and objective investigations of such violations

themselves.

 

Honourable senators, let us maintain Canada’s reputation for upholding international human rights.

Let us send the strongest possible message that we oppose human rights violations, no matter where

they take place. I would urge the Senate to act in a timely manner in this important motion.

Thank you, honourable senators.

 

Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition):

Would Senator Andreychuk take a question?

Senator Andreychuk:

Yes.

Senator Fraser: First, let me say that, clearly, what happened to Mr. Magnitsky is appalling, crying

out for condemnation all over the world.

I just wonder about this particular motion’s second portion, if you will, when we call upon the

government to condemn any foreign nationals who were responsible for his detention, torture or

death, or who have been involved in covering up the crimes, and that we encourage sanctions

against any such persons.

It’s not that I think it would be a bad thing to sanction those acts, but how are we supposed to know

who did those acts? Are we not, in other words, engaging here in a bit of empty rhetoric?

 

Senator Andreychuk: No, because I think what we are still appealing for is some internal ability to

find out who did what. If you look at the number of investigations that were done within Russia, the

people who were responsible in the prisons, one of them was removed but no full action or proper

investigation was made. The people are known; they’ve been identified in Russia.

The point is that it’s very much like the International Criminal Court. You cannot stand behind and

say, ‘‘I was ordered to do it.’’ You cannot say, ‘‘I had an official position. I was only following

orders.’’ This is really exploring it.

 

Granted, we haven’t got the measures, but no one has really stopped to assess it. So we’re calling

on the Canadian government to start that process of investigation to see if it leads somewhere where

we can, in fact, impose sanctions against those people.

Take the person who was in the prison who has been identified by Russians. Should he want to

come to Canada as an immigrant would we not want to know that? I think there are ways and

means. It’s unexplored territory.

 

I should say there was a bill in the United States. And there was a similar bill introduced here that

went to restitution that had some of the same problems. Sanctions are another way of looking at it.

 

Mr. Cotler and I have been working with Mr. Browder and others who have been giving their full

time to this, to find ways and means to get at those perpetrators who think they can get away with

this kind of action in a country that seems not to adhere to the rule of law.