Russia Rebuked by Human Rights Court Over Death of Magnitsky

(Bloomberg) -- Russia was guilty of human rights violations that contributed to the death in a Moscow prison of Sergei Magnitsky, an ally of Kremlin critic Bill Browder, a European court ruled in a rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian officials deprived Magnitsky of “important” medical care, effectively putting his life in danger, the Strasbourg, France-based European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday. The ECHR, however, has limited powers and awarded his family a token 34,000 euros ($38,000).

Browder, who ran one of the largest foreign funds investing in Russia in the 1990s, has alleged for years that $230 million was stolen from the Russian government by corrupt Russian officials and that his tax lawyer, Magnitsky, was jailed while trying to expose the fraud. Magnitsky died at the age of 37 in 2009.

“This is a resounding victory for the Magnitsky family in their decade long struggle for justice for the murder of Sergei Magnitsky,” Browder said in a statement. “It also completely destroys the deliberate Kremlin lies about Sergei Magnitsky that they have spent years trying to spread around the world.”

The court said Magnitsky was detained for an excessive amount of time in “severely overcrowded” conditions, “subjected to ill-treatment” by prison guards the day of his death and unfairly found guilty of tax evasion in posthumous proceedings.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the ECHR ruling.

Browder’s efforts culminated in then-President Barack Obama signing a law in 2012 known as the Magnitsky Act to punish people responsible for his detention, abuse and death by refusing them entry and freezing their assets in the U.S.

In 2016, the U.S. Congress adopted a global version of the Magnitsky Act that authorizes the president to impose sanctions on anybody found “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Several other countries, including the U.K. and Canada, have also passed similar legislation.

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