* Bill would deny visas to Russians linked to lawyer's death
* Magnitsky died in Russian jail in 2009
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, March 27 Human rights legislation
named after an anti-graft lawyer who died in a Russian jail is
likely to be considered by a U.S. Senate committee this spring,
the panel's chairman Senator John Kerry said on Tuesday.
The Sergei Magnitsky bill would require the United States to
deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians or others with
links to his detention and death, as well as those who commit
human rights violations against other whistle-blowers like him.
The 2009 death of the 37-year-old Magnitsky, who worked for
equity fund Hermitage Capital and died after a year in Russian
jails, spooked investors and tarnished Russia's image. The
Kremlin human rights council says he was probably beaten to
Before his arrest, he had testified against Russian interior
ministry officials during a tax evasion case against Hermitage.
Senator Benjamin Cardin introduced the Magnitsky bill in May
of last year. A companion bill by Representative James McGovern,
who like Cardin is a Democrat, was introduced in the House of
But the Obama administration did not embrace the
legislation, and no action has been taken in Congress. U.S.
envoy to Russia Michael McFaul recently noted that the United
States had already imposed visa restrictions on some Russian
officials believed to be involved in Magnitsky's death. This
made the Magnitsky bill "redundant," McFaul said.
"I'd like to try to put it (the bill) on a business meeting
for when we return (from spring recess in mid-April), and we
should aim to do it," Kerry said on Tuesday at a Senate Foreign
Relations Committee meeting after the panel's ranking
Republican, Richard Lugar, urged the committee to finally take
up and vote on the legislation.
Cardin, who is also a member of the committee, said he was
trying to work out differences with the Obama administration on
the bill. Cardin thought the best opportunity for passing it
would be in conjunction with legislation on trade relations with
Russia that is expected to come before Congress in the coming
Russia's expected entry into the World Trade Organization
requires Congress to vote to establish "permanent normal trade
relations" with Russia by removing a Cold War-era human rights
provision known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment that is
inconsistent with WTO rules.
But trying to link the Magnitsky bill to the trade
legislation could run into trouble from other Democrats. Senator
Max Baucus, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance
Committee, told Reuters on Tuesday that he was inclined to
oppose adding the Magnitsky bill to the trade legislation.
Baucus' office said he has expressed a willingness to work
with Cardin and find the best path forward for human rights