Alleged UK visa blacklist for human rights offenders concerns Russia officials

[JURIST] Russia's Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko [official website] asked the British government [press release] on Monday to confirm or deny the existence of a visa blacklist for Russian officials linked to the the 2009 death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky [JURIST news archive], after a British newspaper reported that the British embassy in Moscow has implemented the "Magnitsky list" to flag entry of the officials for human rights reasons. The British government has not responded to the allegations, published in The Sunday Times [official website], but a British official told reporters [RIA Novosti report] that the government has a general policy of denying entry to human rights offenders. The list allegedly contains the names of 60 Russian officials suspected of committing human rights violations leading up to Magnitsky's death. A private investigative report into his death last year detailed the denial of medical treatment [JURIST report] to and severe physical abuse of Magnitsky, a former Russian lawyer and purported whistle-blower. Magnitsky died [JURIST report] in a Moscow prison in November 2009. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev admitted in 2011 that Magnitsky's death was the result of criminal acts, differing from his previous explanation which had blamed prison doctors. Yakovenko said that Russia would await the response of the UK, but noted that "if London introduces any sanctions against Russian citizens the Russian side will react pursuant to the diplomatic practice."

The UK is not the only country to respond to human rights allegations in the death of Magnitsky. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a bill in June that would impose sanctions on officials linked to Magnitsky's death [JURIST report] despite a statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that the Russian government will retaliate if the bill is passed. Prior to his death, Magnitsky was held in prison for 358 days with little to no access to legal representation, his family or medical professionals. In a controversial move last August, Russian investigators reopened the case [JURIST report] against Magnitsky on the basis of a new ruling permitting criminal cases against the dead. Critics of this action, such as JURIST Contributing Editor David Crane, argue that the ongoing posthumous prosecution of Magnitsky is a violation of the rule of law [JURIST op-ed] and an embarrassment for the Russian judicial system. Last year, US lawmakers introduced the bill [JURIST report] to sanction individuals who are connected to Magnitsky's death.

 

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