Legislation would deny U.S. visas to those responsible for human rights violations and improve access to Russian markets for U.S. businesses
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today praised the House of Representatives’ passage of a legislative package that will enforce new penalties on human rights abusers and enhance American economic interests in Russia. The bill includes the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law of Accountability Act, named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who was imprisoned and killed for exposing corruption within the Russian government. The Magnitsky Act would allow the U.S. State Department to withhold visas from Russian citizens responsible for human rights violations. The legislation also includes a provision that would normalize trade relations between the United States and Russia, which will open new markets to U.S. businesses and increase American exports. With passage in the House today, the bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.
Senator Shaheen, the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, is an original cosponsor of similar legislation in the Senate.
“The legislation passed by the House of Representatives today is a win-win for the human rights community and our economy and I hope that my colleagues will join in supporting its passage in the Senate,” said Shaheen. “It would ensure that human rights abusers in Russia are not permitted to travel to the United States or benefit from our financial system. Given the deteriorating human rights and rule of law situation in Russia over the last several months, this bill will send a message that the United States stands with the people of Russia, who are sick and tired of the corruption, abuse, and the culture of fear in their country.
“In addition, the legislative package will also help increase U.S. exports and create jobs by giving U.S. companies greater access to Russia’s trade market. Frankly, without this bill American companies would be stuck on the outside looking in as foreign competitors gain Russian market share at our expense.”
The Magnitsky Act would require the State Department to publish and update a public list of persons believed to be responsible for the detention, abuse or death of Magnitsky or other international human rights violations. Individuals placed on the list would be denied travel visas to the United States and subject to financial restrictions. Shaheen has been a strong advocate for the Magnitsky Act. In December 2011, she chaired a hearing on the bill and the state of human rights in Russia. She also supported its passage in a speech on the Senate floor in February 2012.
Since passage of the Jackson-Vanik amendment in 1974, the United States has not had normal trade relations with Russia. Russia’s acceptance into the World Trade Organization earlier this year has allowed numerous countries to benefit from greater access to Russian markets. U.S. companies have not had the same opportunity, due to the legislation. The House passed bill would normalize trade relations with Russia and ensure American companies equal access to Russian markets.
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