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TDs and senators back down from sanctions on Russia over lawyer death

Warnings from the Russian ambassador to Ireland over possible blacklisting of Russian officials in response to the treatment and death of Sergei Magnitsky appear to have been heeded.

Sergei Magnitsky
Sergei Magnitsky
Image: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP/Press Association Images

AN OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE has backed down on proposed sanctions on Russian officials over the death of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian jail four years ago.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade has redrafted a motion that instead calls for the Irish government to convey to the Russian authorities its concern and request for reassurances that they will comply with human rights legislation in the Magnitsky case.

This follows a warning from the Russian ambassador to Ireland about sanctions which would potentially prevent Irish parents from adopting Russian children as Moscow authorities have already done to the US in response to Congress there passing the Magnitsky Act last year.

The US legislation sought to punish Russian officials suspected of being responsible for the lawyer’s death. In his letter to the Oireachtas committee, Ambassador Maxim Peshkov warned that the committee’s original approach would “not enrich bilateral Russian-Irish relations”.

He added that it could “have negative influence on the negotiations on the Adoption Agreement between Russia and Ireland being proceeded”.

Sergei Magnitsky had been working as an auditor in Moscow when he uncovered what he claimed was massive fraud by interior ministry officials and police involving some €176 million.

After reporting it to authorities, he was detained on suspicion of aiding tax evasion. He died in custody in November 2009 with his colleagues claiming the case against him was a fabrication.

In its toned-down motion released yesterday, the Oireachtas committee said that it had agreed to note that Magnitsky died in prison having “been held for 358 days at the Butyrka detention centre in Moscow”.

It also noted an inquiry by the Russian Human Rights Council which found that Magnitsky died as a result of beatings by prison guards and that charges of negligence against two prison doctors who refused him treatment for gall bladder disease and pancreatitis were dropped.

The committee, chaired by Fine Gael TD Pat Breen, also called for Ireland to use its presidency of EU to “highlight its concern and that of the international community at the issues surrounding Mr Magnitsky’s death”.

It also called called on the Irish government to “to reiterate its resolve” to ensure a final report into the circumstances of the case is carried out and to ensure that those “found responsible be held to account in accordance with international law”.

More: Russia to charge boss of lawyer in posthumous trial‎

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Hugh O'Connell

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