Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Names 18 Russians as Human Rights Violators. What Happens Next?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Names 18 Russians as Human Rights Violators. What Happens Next?

Article excerpt

The Obama administration, acting in accordance with a law passed by Congress last year that roiled US-Russia relations, named 18 Russian officials Friday who will face visa bans and a US assets freeze as a result of alleged human rights violations.

US officials said the administration is bracing for blowback from Russia - where irate lawmakers already reacted to the US law by approving a ban on American adoptions of Russian children.

The list was the first to result from passage last fall of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, named for a Russian whistleblower who died in prison in 2009 after publicly reporting massive tax fraud by Russian officials.

But on Capitol Hill, several lawmakers decried what they described as a surprisingly short list that failed to name any senior officials.

Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said he was "deeply disappointed" that the administration named only 18 individuals - even though, he said, several prominent international human rights organizations and the European Court on Human Rights have made "compelling cases" against many times that number of Russian officials involved in human rights abuses.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D) of Massachusetts described the list as "timid and features more significant omissions than names." But he nevertheless called the release of the initial list "an important first step" and said administration officials had assured him that "further additions will be made to the list as new evidence comes to light."

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A senior State Department official discussing the list with reporters Friday acknowledged that human rights are "sometimes a difficult part of our relationship with Russia," but he insisted that "political considerations were not a factor" in drawing up the list of 18 names.

Some human rights organizations consulted by the State Department as it drew up the list and some congressional supporters of the legislation had anticipated a much longer list that might even reach into Russian President Vladimir Putin's circle of advisers and political associates.

The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to openly discuss the listing, confirmed that there is also a separate classified list, as called for in the law, but he refused to divulge even the number of names on that list. …

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