USA*Engage, NFTC Urge Congress to Vote Against Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act

Tuesday, 5 June 2012
Washington, DC – USA*Engage and the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) today released a statement urging Congress to oppose the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, H.R. 4405 and S. 1039, respectively. In advance of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s markup of the bill on Thursday, the groups cautioned Members against supporting the legislation, as it would impose a global unilateral U.S. sanctions regime, needlessly complicate relations with Russia and invite collateral damage to U.S. diplomatic relations worldwide.

“The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act is seriously flawed,” said NFTC President and USA*Engage Co-Chairman Bill Reinsch. “This legislation would harm U.S. relations with Russia and many other nations, and would jeopardize the significant benefits arising from Russian concessions during its WTO accession negotiations.”

“This legislation, if passed, would entail significant diplomatic and political consequences. For one, as it is written, it mandates sanctions regarding potential human rights violations beyond Russian persons responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky,” said USA*Engage Director Richard Sawaya. “The legislation lacks any clear process to determine what constitutes ‘responsibility’ or define ‘gross human rights violations.’”

“Additionally, Members of the House and Senate would be authorized to propose persons to be included on the list, a process almost certain to confuse further domestic politics with international relations,” Sawaya continued. “The bills also extend the scope of sanctions to ‘agents’ – an undefined term that is an open invitation to litigation. There is no warrant for this legislation, as the Administration has already moved to enact appropriate measures regarding Sergei Magnitsky and human rights generally. We, therefore, strongly urge Congress to vote against the Magnitsky Act.”

“USA*Engage and the NFTC appreciate the desire of Congress to be heard on human rights violations in Russia. We urge Congress in its consideration of this legislation to limit its scope to measures already taken by the Executive Branch to deny visas to Russian persons with a direct involvement in the death of Sergei Magnitsky,” Reinsch concluded.

The NFTC and USA*Engage strongly support legislation repealing the Jackson-Vanik amendment, providing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), and thus allowing American companies to compete on a level playing field in Russia following its WTO accession this summer.