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US sanctions five Russian officials for human rights abuses

[JURIST] The US Treasury Department [official website] announced on Monday that five Russian officials have been sanctioned [press release] for human rights abuses. The officials include [NYT report] Aleksandr Bastrykin, who serves as both chief public investigator and close aide to President Vladimir Putin. The Treasury Department had been investigating the officials for their connection to the 2009 matter of a deceased lawyer. Through the related 2013 Magnitsky Act [text], the Treasury Department has led a campaign to freeze assets, prohibit all transactions and deny visas to Russians implicated in human rights abuses. The recent blacklisting is seen as a message that the Magnitsky Act remains enforced and should continue as such into the next presidential term. President-elect Donald Trump [official website] is expected to relax such sanctions against Russian officials as he pushes for greater diplomacy with the government.

In late 2012 US lawmakers passed the Magnitsky Act in the name of deceased lawyer Sergei Magnitsky [JURIST news archive]. The lawyer had represented the Hermitage Capital Fund [corporate website] and was arrested in 2008 by Russian Interior Ministry officials for tax evasion after he accused [JURIST report] the ministry of embezzling USD $230 million from the state. Following Magnistky's suspicious death in prison in 2009, the US passed the Magnistky Act to allow the US Secretary of the Treasury [official website] to place sanctions against Russian officials for human rights abuses. In possible retaliation, Putin signed into law [JURIST report] a bill that prohibits US citizens from adopting Russian children. Simultaneously the Moscow court acquitted [JURIST report] prison doctor Dmitry Kratov of all charges stemming from Magnitsky's death, as the judge found no evidence showing a causal link between Kratov's negligence and Magnitsky's death. Kratov was the head of medical services at Butyrka Prison, where Magnitsky died from untreated pancreatitis. An investigation conducted by Russia's Presidential Council on Human Rights concluded [JURIST report], however, that in addition to being denied medical treatment, Magnitsky had been severely beaten during his year-long incarceration. Kratov was accused of negligence for allegedly refusing to respond to repeated requests by Magnitsky to treat his life-threatening condition.

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