Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 05.10.2017
Canada will soon become the fourth country to have a “Magnitsky” law, along with the United States, the United Kingdom and Estonia. When human rights are grossly violated, anywhere in the world, the Government of Canada will be able to take punitive action. Individuals and entities responsible for abusing human rights will be subject to the penalties of sanctions, which include having assets seized, being banned from doing business with Canadians, and not being able to travel to and enter Canada.
The Canadian law is called the “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law).” It’s named after Russian lawyer and anti-corruption researcher Sergei Magnitsky, who was falsely imprisoned by Russian officials and beaten to death by them in prison on 16 November 2009. The Act was given third and final reading in the House of Commons of the Parliament of Canada on the evening of 4 October 2017. With each Member of Parliament standing in turn to record his or her vote, the Act passed unanimously, with 277 “yeas” and zero “nays.” This is a resounding signal of support for global human rights and also a rebuke to the Putin regime from Canada. Russia has been threatening Canada in various ways since the summer, when the governing Liberal party in Ottawa indicated it supported the legislation and that it therefore was certain to pass. MPs from both sides of the House showed they were not going to be bullied by Russia. Now that Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) has passed in the House of Commons, a message will be sent to the Senate asking for its concurrence in the amendments made to the legislation. Those amendments were measures to strengthen the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The Senate is almost certain to quickly agree, as it originated and passed the legislation already as Bill S-226. The Act will then receive Royal Assent from the Governor-General and become the law of the land. After that, the foreign affairs minister can introduce regulations – which will be sanctions – and get to work defending human rights around the world.
It is very likely that the Russian officials who murdered Sergei Magnitsky will be among the first be to sanctioned under Canada’s new law. But the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act has a global reach, and is not limited to the Magnitsky case. The Canadian law can correctly be applied to the Russian officials who are committing grave violations of human rights in Russia-invaded and occupied Crimea and Donbas, in Ukraine. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights documented many appalling abuses committed by Russian officials in a report that was released on 2 October 2017. An example of where Canada’s global Magnitsky law can be applied is to the Russian officials involved in the sham trial and ‘conviction’ of Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov. He is now a prisoner of the Russian occupiers of his homeland, following a trial which presented no evidence or witnesses against him and which violated every standard of judicial procedure. Everyone involved in this mockery of justice is liable to be sanctioned under Canada’s global Magnitsky law. That includes the arresting officers, the prosecutors, the judge, and most of all the source of this grave injustice to Mr. Umerov, which is the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. Canada has solid legal ground to sanction Putin under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. That Putin is responsible for grave violations of human rights, that he has numerous victims of his crimes, and that he is corrupt – all that is provable.
Canada is in a strange position when it comes to Russia, in that its foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, is under sanctions by Russia and subject to a travel ban. There is no reason for Minister Freeland to be sanctioned – in spite, Putin lashed out at her and 12 other Canadians on 24 March 2014 and he doesn’t know how to back down now. If Putin wanted to frighten Canadians he didn’t succeed. Every one of the Canadians he sanctioned on 24 March 2014 who is today a Member of Parliament voted in favour of the Sergei Magnitsky Law: Chrystia Freeland; Andrew Scheer (now leader of the Conservative Party of Canada); Peter Van Loan; Ted Opitz; James Bezan (who introduced the motion in the House of Commons); Dean Allison. Canada’s top diplomat, Chrystia Freeland, is blocked from going to Moscow to do her job. Canada has shown remarkable forbearance, and has not sanctioned Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Lavrov should be sanctioned, as he is a senior official responsible for war crimes in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and for human rights abuses against Ukrainians. Because Canada now has its global Magnitsky law, Russia may carry through with its threat to sanction top Canadian officials, like it did on 24 March 2014. If it does, Russia will be acting again out of mindless spite. On the other hand, Canada, wisely and judiciously, can and will sanction any Russian official – and any official anywhere in the world – who gravely violates human rights. This includes a jail guard who tortures a prisoner in illegally occupied Crimea or Donbas. It especially includes Lavrov or Putin or any top regime official who enables that torture. There must be justice for the victims of corrupt foreign officials.
In the name of Sergei Magnitsky, Canada will do justice to the victims of corrupt foreign officials.