U.K. to Pass Version of U.S. Magnitsky Act, Targeting Russia After Poisoning

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U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain would introduce legislation similar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act as part of its broadside against Russia, marking another potential victory for supporters of Russian lawyer and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison in 2009.
The U.S. law, passed in 2012, permitted U.S. officials to freeze the assets and ban the entry of Russians believed to be implicated in Mr. Magnitsky’s death and in human-rights violations more broadly. It was expanded in 2014 to target human-rights abusers worldwide, and similar legislation has since been adopted by countries including Canada, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
In her speech laying out a range of measures to hit back at Moscow over the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the prime minister described a plan inspired by the act that would amend sanctions-related legislation currently being debated by Parliament to target those implicated in violations of human rights.
The U.K. already has some powers to seize assets and ban the entry of those suspected of such abuses, Mrs. May said, and the government proposes to strengthen and extend them.
“In doing so, we will play our part in an international effort to punish those responsible for the sorts of abuses suffered by Sergei Magnitsky,” she said.
Lawmakers from Mrs. May’s ruling Conservatives and opposition parties have voiced their support.
Mr. Magnitsky died at age 37 in a Moscow jail after repeatedly complaining to the authorities that he was being denied adequate medical care. He had been imprisoned on charges of tax evasion linked to a case against Hermitage Capital, a hedge fund founded by William Browder, a U.S. investment manager who had become an outspoken Kremlin critic.
Mr. Magnitsky and Hermitage denied the charges, saying Mr. Magnitsky was imprisoned because he had uncovered corruption among Russian officials.
The U.S. act was passed in Congress following the advocacy of Mr. Browder and others. Forty-nine Russians have been censured since 2012, the State Department said in December.
A bipartisan U.K. effort in 2012 sought to replicate the U.S. law in Britain, but the government concluded its existing sanctions powers were broad enough—a decision former Prime Minister David Cameron later said he regretted.

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