Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), representing the United States at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, which was convened in Monaco, spoke urgently in favor of the resolution approved Sunday, calling Magnitsky’s death an example of pervasive and systemic corruption in Russia.
A similar law, named in memory of Magnitsky, is already making its way through Congress, with the energetic support of Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D.-Md.), who is vice president of the OSCE parliamentary assembly.
Magnitsky was working for an American law firm in Moscow, advising the Hermitage Capital investment firm on tax issues, when he uncovered a $230 million tax fraud. After he accused tax officials and police investigators of the crime, Magnitsky was arrested and charged instead. He died in 2009 after a year in pre-trial detention, denied medical care and showing signs of having been beaten. “Not one person has been held responsible,” McCain said, calling Magnitsky’s treatment tantamount to torture.
Russia put up a spirited defense Sunday, arguing that an investigation of Magnitsky’s death was very much underway and that the sanctions amounted to conviction by public opinion rather than a court of law. It was overruled by an overwhelming show of hands in favor of the resolution.