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UN rights experts to investigate Russia lawyer prison death

A group of independent UN human rights experts will investigate the 2009 prison death [JURIST report] of Moscow lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, his former colleague William Browder announced Thursday. Magnitsky was arrested after implicating Russian police [WP report] in a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scandal, while working as outside counsel for the London-based investment fund Hermitage Capital Management [corporate website]. Prior to his death, Magnitsky was held in prison for 358 days with little to no access to legal representation, his family or medical professionals. It is suspected that torture played a part in his death. Bowder has accused the police of murdering Magnitsky in an effort to conceal their role in the embezzlement scheme and has enlisted the help of Redress [advocacy website], a British organization that works on behalf of torture victims. It is at Redress' request that the UN has decided to launch the investigation.

In September, US lawmakers introduced a bill [press release, PDF] that would prohibit the US State Department (DOS) [official website] from issuing visas to individuals, or their family members, connected to the death of Magnitsky. In addition to the visa restrictions [JURIST report], the bill would also prohibit the transaction of property or finances through US financial institutions by officials implicated in Magnitsky's death. Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) [official website], who introduced the bill, said it was necessary for the US to take action because the Russian judicial system had failed to hold anyone accountable for Magnitsky's death. Cardin noted the bill's importance in protecting US business interests abroad and sending "a strong message to those who are currently acting with impunity in Russia that there will be consequences for corruption should you wish to travel and invest abroad." Cardin originally urged the DOS to take action on the visas in a letter [text, PDF] he submitted in April to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In addition to the letter, Cardin provided a list of 60 senior officials [text, PDF] in the Russian government and their connection to the death of Magnitsky.

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